KABUL — Four people were sentenced to death on Wednesday over the brutal mob killing of an Afghan woman in Kabul whose slaying sparked widespread protests and outrage.
Judge Safiullah Mojadedi pronounced the four death-by-hanging sentences on Wednesday as part of a trial of 49 suspects, including 19 police. Eight people were sentenced to 16 years in prison and 18 were not found guilty and released. The remaining sentences will be announced on Sunday.
Farkhunda, a 27-year-old religious scholar, was beaten, pushed her from a roof, run over by a car and set alight before her body was thrown into the Kabul River on March 19. The attack, which was captured by cellphone video and distributed widely online, sent shock waves through the country and prompted a protest movement calling for justice and for greater protection of women’s rights.
In a symbolic move, women’s rights activists at Farkhunda’s funeral broke with tradition to carry her coffin aloft.
Officials and eyewitnesses initially told journalists that Farkhunda was set upon after burning copies of the Quran — a deeply offensive gesture in conservative Afghanistan. But at her graveside, the head of the Interior Ministry’s criminal investigation directorate, Gen. Mohammad Zahir, said no evidence had been found to support those allegations.
Kabul bakery owner Mohammad Folad watched the court proceedings live on television and said he was very pleased at the judge’s decision on Wednesday.
“Those who committed this crime should have been punished and I am glad it is happening,” he said. “After this, anyone who dares to harm anybody under any name will think two times.”
Metra Mehran, who runs Civil and Liberal Initiative for Peace, a non-governmental organization that works with women and young people, said she welcomed the court’s decision but didn’t think all of those responsible would be punished.
“High-ranking police officials, including the Kabul police chief, were not put on trial. Instead they tried junior officers,” the 22-year-old said. “We have bigger problem on the societal level and the root causes of these sorts of incidents should be addressed.”
— Fazul Rahim and F. Brinley Bruton
The Associated Press contributed to this report.