Friday, March 11, 2016

Why We Fight, Chapter 682

KABUL, Afghanistan — One defendant was the custodian of a holy shrine who trafficked in Viagra, condoms and pagan amulets, and who, when exposed, falsely accused a young woman named Farkhunda of burning a Quran. Another was an employee from an optician’s shop who joined a growing mob at the shrine and pummeled Farkhunda with a rock the size of a watermelon.

Another was an Afghan intelligence agent who bragged on Facebook that he had the honor of striking the fatal blow against her. Another man drove his car over her, twice.

Those men were sentenced to death last year in what briefly looked like a rare moment of justice for Afghan women, and other convictions seemed imminent. But in the months afterward, as detailed last year in an investigation by The New York Times, failures at every stage of the justice process surfaced. Clear leads did not turn into arrests, and tough sentences were drastically reduced — including for those four men identified at the center of the violence, who had their death sentences turned into as little as 10 years in prison.

Now, Afghanistan’s Supreme Court has confirmed the decision to vacate those four death sentences, and nine other defendants also had their sentences reduced.  . . .

Of 49 men originally arrested in Farkhunda’s killing, only 13 have so far been given serious penalties — nearly all of them greatly reduced on appeal. All the death sentences were vacated.

In addition, many activists claim that some of those most responsible — and identified in cellphone video of the killing — have still not been arrested. “I believe the main perpetrators of this case, those who were behind it, are still not brought to justice,” said a female senator, Anarkali Honaryar. . . .

The controversy surrounding the case led Farkhunda’s family to flee to neighboring Tajikistan, where they remain. “Not only do we oppose the decision of the Supreme Court, but the entire nation is dissatisfied,” said Farkhunda’s brother, Mujibullah Malikzada, reached by telephone in Dushanbe. “I’m not saying that the perpetrators must be lynched the way they lynched my sister. But all I want is fairness and justice, which has not been done.” . . .

The New York Times, March 8, 2016

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