The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gangrape suspects challenge verdict

Islamabad, Sept. 3 (Reuters): The lawyers for six men sentenced to death for the gangrape of a woman in rural Pakistan filed appeals against the verdict today.

Defence lawyer Malik Mohammad Saleem said he had challenged the convictions in the provincial high court in Multan, capital of Punjab province.

An anti-terrorist court on Sunday sentenced to death four people — brothers Allah Ditta and Abdul Khaliq, Fayyaz Hussain and Ghulam Farid — for gang raping a 30-year-old divorcee, Mukhtaran Mai on the orders of a village jury, or panchayat.

Two jurors Faiz Bakhsh and Ramzan Bichar were also sentenced to death for abetting the June 22 crime. Eight other jurors were acquitted.

Saleem said he appealled on the ground that the ruling by the lower court had overlooked the law and facts of the case.

“I have filed two separate appeals, one on behalf of four convicted on the rape charge and the other on behalf of the two men who sat on the jury,” he said.

The prosecution has also said it will appeal — against the acquittal of the eight jurors.

Mai said she was raped by four men after approaching the panchayat in her village of Meerwala, near Multan, after her 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor was kidnapped and sodomised by members of the rival Mastoi family in punishment for having an illicit affair with one of their relatives.

The jury ruled that to save the honour of the more powerful Mastoi family, Shakoor should marry the woman with whom he was linked and Mai given away in marriage to a Mastoi man.

When she rejected the decision she was gangraped by the four Mastoi men and made to walk home nearly naked in front of hundreds of people.

Saleem said appeals under anti-terrorism laws have to be heard within seven working days.

Chief prosecution lawyer Ramzan Khalid Joya said he would file an appeal against the acquittal of eight jurors on Thursday. The six men sentenced to death over the gang-rape were acquitted of the additional charge of undressing Mai publicly, itself an offence that carries the death penalty.

Ramzan Khalid Joya vowed to appeal against their acquittal on this latter charge.

“I will pray to the court to punish them on that count too as she was forced to walk almost naked before hundreds of people,” he said. “I want maximum punishment for them.”

Even though gang rapes and “honour” killings are not uncommon in rural Pakistan, the Meerwala case caused an outcry when it was publicised in national newspapers to highlight the plight of women in rural areas, where feudal codes of behaviour still rule.

Village councils are often convened to settle local disputes and women often end up as pawns of village elders.

Dozens of gang rapes and “honour” killings were recorded in Punjab this year alone.

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