| Chief prosecution witness Abdul Razak (second from (left) and Hazoor Baksh (right), brother of gangrape victim Mukthar Mai, at the anti-terrorism court in Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan. (AFP)
Dera Ghazi Khan (Pakistan), Aug. 31 (Reuters): A Pakistani anti-terrorism court today sentenced six men to death for gangraping a woman in Punjab province.
Defence lawyer Mohammad Yaqub told Reuters that eight other men were acquitted in the trial before a special anti-terrorism court in the Punjab town of Dera Ghazi Khan, whose proceedings have highlighted abuses against women in rural Pakistan.
Mukhtar Mai, the 30-year-old divorced victim of the June 22 crime, was not present when the court announced the decision amid heavy security. She told Reuters yesterday members of her family had been threatened with death if the men were convicted.
Yaqub said four men were sentenced to death for committing the rape and two others for serving on a traditional village jury that authorised the crime.
“The four rapists and two jurors have been given the death penalty and a fine of 40,000 rupees ($675) each. The remaining eight have been acquitted,” he said. “We will appeal,” he added.
Yaqub named the four sentenced to death for the rape as brothers Allah Ditta and Abdul Khaliq, Fayyaz Hussain and Ghulam Farid. The two jurors were Faiz Bakhsh and Ramzan Bichar. All the eight acquitted had served on the jury.
Mai said she was raped by four men after approaching the traditional jury, or panchayat, in her home village of Meerawali in Punjab province to settle a dispute with a rival clan.
Mai said she went to the village jury after her 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor was kidnapped and sodomised by members of the rival Mastoi family as a punishment for having an illicit affair with one of their relatives.
The jury ruled that to save Mastoi honour, Shakoor should marry the woman with whom he was linked, while Mai was to be given away in marriage to a Mastoi man.
The prosecution said that when she rejected the decision she was gangraped by four Mastoi men and made to walk home nearly naked in front of hundreds of people.
Yesterday, Mai told Reuters she and her family had been threatened with revenge if the men were convicted.
“We are receiving death threats,” she said. “They have told us that if their four people are sentenced to death, they would kill eight of our men. Not only my family, but those who supported us are being threatened with dire consequences.”
Armed police units were stationed around Dera Ghazi Khan where hundreds of members of both families and their supporters had gathered for the verdict. Black-clad elite police commandos ringed the court house.