Afghanistan's Ghani reopens case of woman killed by mob

Afghan president orders government to reopen case of woman lynched by mob

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Farkunda Malikzada seen on the poster, who was beaten to death by a mob after being falsely accused of burning a Quran, during her funeral in downtown Kabul.

The Afghan president has ordered his government to reopen the case of a woman beaten to death last year by a frenzied mob outside a Kabul shrine, just days after the country's highest court reduced the sentences of the 13 men convicted of her murder.

The move comes ahead of the first anniversary of Farkhunda Malikzada's killing and as a leading international rights group issued a report slamming Afghanistan's judicial system over its failure to deliver justice in the high-profile case.

In its statement, Human Rights Watch called it a "bitter irony" that the Supreme Court in Kabul had confirmed the reduced sentences on March 8, International Women's Day.

"At every stage of this case, the Afghan criminal justice system failed to adequately investigate, hold to account or appropriately punish those responsible," HRW said.

Afghan women demand justice for Farkhunda. (AP)

The 27-year-old Malikzada was attacked and lynched on March 19 last year outside a shrine in the Afghan capital after one of the men in the group shouted that she had burned a Quran, the Muslim holy book — an accusation that was later found to be false.

The brutal slaying stunned the country and led to calls for reform of the judicial system, long plagued by corruption, partisanship and incompetence, and stronger protection for women from violence.

A spokesman for Ghani, Zafar Hashemi, said the newly-appointed attorney general had been instructed by the president to "make justice for Farkhunda his top priority and reopen the case."

"The president has assigned a senior and dedicated adviser from his legal team to follow up and provide support to Farkhunda's family lawyers," Hashemi told The Associated Press.

"He asks for regular reporting on her case and puts significant pressure on law enforcement authorities to make sure that justice is delivered."

Four men were originally sentenced to death for Malikzada's murder and another nine were handed long prison sentences. However, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision to reduce the sentences for all convicted.

Afghan women chant slogans during a protest demanding justice for Farkhunda Malikzada. (AP)
Afghan women chant slogans during a protest demanding justice for Farkhunda Malikzada. (AP)

Three of the death sentences were commuted to 20 years in prison and the fourth to 10 years. The other nine men convicted in the case also had their prison terms slashed. Initially, 30 men were charged with Malikzada's murder.

The cellphone footage from the attack has shown police stood by watching while Malikzada was being beaten to death. A total of 19 police were prosecuted for their failure to prevent her death. HRW noted that "the court lightly disciplined only 11" policemen. Those hearings were separate from the trials of the attackers.

The mob killing of her sparked huge demonstrations throughout the country that were mostly organised by women’s groups.

Her case has become a symbol of the violence that women face in Afghanistan, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban regime fell in 2001.

In the year that has passed since the lynching, most of Malikzada's family has left Afghanistan for Tajikistan, after her father, Mohammad, told the AP that they had received death threats during the early stages of the court cases.


TRTWorld, AP