11 Afghan police get year in jail over mob killing of woman

11 Afghan police get year in jail over mob killing of woman
Suspects, including police officers, stand before a judge during a primary court trial in Kabul on charges relating to the mob killing of an Afghan woman.

KABUL - Eleven Afghan policemen were Tuesday sentenced to one year in prison for failing to protect a woman who was lynched by a mob after being falsely accused of blasphemy, following a landmark fast-track trial.

The verdict comes after four Afghan men were sentenced to death and eight others were handed a 16-year jail term earlier this month for the killing of 27-year-old Farkhunda.

"You are sentenced... for negligence of duty to one year in prison," Judge Safiullah Mojaddidi told the 11 defendants, who included senior officers, while eight other policemen were found not guilty.

"This verdict is not final and the defendants have the right to appeal," the judge added.

A furious mob turned on Farkhunda on March 19, beating her in broad daylight and setting her body ablaze on the banks of the Kabul River.

Forty-nine people were arrested, including 19 police officers, some of whom were shown standing by and doing nothing to stop the mob in cellphone videos recorded by bystanders.

The attack came after an amulet seller, whom she had reportedly castigated for peddling superstition, falsely accused her of burning the Quran.

Her killing triggered protests around Afghanistan and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women.

On May 6, the same court sentenced four Afghan men to death and eight others to 16 years in prison after a three-day trial broadcast live on national television.

The trial drew praise for its fast-track nature but also prompted worry over its fairness, with Human Rights Watch saying it was "very concerned" over whether due process was followed as many of the accused did not appear to have lawyers.

"This trial leaves the impression that the Afghan government wants a quick and dirty process to get this case out of the headlines and move on - rather than real justice and a real examination of how such a terrible attack could have happened," Heather Barr, a senior researcher with the group on women's rights in Asia, said on May 6.

Farkhunda's case become a symbol of the endemic violence that women face in Afghanistan, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban regime fell in 2001.

The backlash highlighted the angst of a post-Taliban generation in Afghanistan - where nearly two-thirds of the population is under 25 - that is often torn between conservatism and modernity as the country rebuilds after decades of war.

Last October five Afghan men were hanged over a gang rape that sparked a national outcry, though the United Nations and human rights groups called for President Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions.

A recent UN report urged the government to strengthen access to justice for female victims of violence.

Most cases of violence against women are settled through mediation, highlighting perceived deficiencies in the Afghan criminal justice system including allegations of corruption and abuse of power, the report said.

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