Suspects in death of Afghan female scholar to be retried

Afghan president appoints panel to review murder of female Islamic scholar Farkhunda

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Aug 13, 2015

Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani assigned a five-lawyer panel to review the trial of the Farkhunda, a female Islamic scholar who faced with mob killing in the Afghan capital, Kabul, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The group leader said on Wednesday that the panel aims to recommend retrying of those suspects accusing her death.  

Najla Raheel, the chairwoman of the panel said that “Our main finding is that they should send the case back to the trial court and retry the entire case, including all those people who were pardoned, this time in the presence of defense lawyers for Farkhunda.”

Murdering of Farkhunda (27) took place in Afghan capital, Kabul on March 19. She was lynched by a mob of men after a mullah who wrongly blamed her for burning the Islam’s holy book, Quran.

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

In May the court ruled death sentences for four men, including the shrine keeper who provoked the mob and led the lynch and also three men who have been among her most vicious assailants. Eight other suspects also were given 16 years in prison in the same trial.

However in the first week of July, an appeal court secretly overturned the death sentences of four men and dropped charges of others. Farkhunda's advocates claimed that political meddling may have changed the result.

2000-page file of testimony and 120-page secret decision by the appellate court were presented on the panel before they agreed to ask the country’s Supreme Court to order a retrial of the suspects, according to Ms Raheel.

“Now that we’ve been through the case in detail, we’ve seen that there was no justice done in this case, and we’re going to demand of the Supreme Court that they make sure justice is done,” Ms Raheel said.

“One of the men who was completely pardoned, Mohammad Omran, he’s not even in jail, but he instigated the whole episode and yet the appeals court completely pardoned him,” she added referring the caretaker of a shrine in Kabul, who was warned by Farkhunda not to sell amulets and tell about the fortune due to it is not acceptable in the Islamic belief.

According to the witnesses Mr Omran and another amulet seller Zain-ul-Din allegedly provoked the mob giving false information accusing her of burning holy Quran. Zain was sentenced to death and Omran took 16 years in prison in the initial trial but later appellate court dropped the death sentence and turned it to 20 years in prison as released other suspect, Omran.

The court has received under review the Omran claims about his absence in the town during the mob killing of Farkhunda despite detention of him in the scene, according to the testimony of the original trial.

Death sentence of Sharaf Baghlani, also known as Mohammad Shareef, who posted a comment on his Facebook page confessing that he had struck the fatal blow, was also dropped turning 20 years imprisonment by the appellate court.

“The president really wants to see justice done in the Farkhunda case,” said Shahla Farid, a law professor who led a fact-finding commission assigned by Mr Ghani before the initial trial.

“The problem is there was no transparency in the appeals, it was not in public or open court, so family members and their lawyers want the Supreme Court to return it to the trial court,” she added.

She thought that the death sentences may be exaggerated for the young man who was just victim of the provocation.

“I want to convince the family of Farkhunda that justice has to be fair,” Ms Farid said.

Meanwhile Afghan courts mainly choose to give death sentences for much lesser crimes such as robbery. It is the another point which is criticised by the Farkhunda’s supporters. They also complain about that the courts consider as an evidence only sentences of male witnesses.


TRTWorld and agencies