“An Afghan court has overturned the death sentences for four men convicted of taking part in the shocking mob killing of a woman outside a Kabul shrine, a judge said Thursday.
Three of the men convicted of the murder of Farkhunda Malikzada in March were instead given 20-year sentences, and the fourth was sentenced to 10 years, said Appeals Court Judge Abdul Nasir Murid.
The ruling was made in a closed-door hearing on Wednesday and first reported by the independent Tolo TV. Tolo said the court acquitted the peddler at the shrine who allegedly incited the mob by falsely accusing Malikzada of burning a Quran.
The court’s decision, which has not yet been made public, has outraged her family, who said they are still waiting for justice. Lawmakers and activists also criticized the decision, saying the court had bowed to the conservative religious establishment and failed to uphold the rule of law.
“This is against the constitution. The courts should be open to the public, and this closed-door hearing undermines the credibility of the sentences,” said Shukria Barakzai, a lawmaker and women’s rights advocate.
The mob killing led to calls for judicial reform and stronger protection for women from violence. After the peddler at the Shah-Du Shamshira shrine falsely accused Malikzada of burning a Quran, a mob attacked her as police watched. After punching, kicking and beating her with wooden planks, the crowd threw her from a roof, ran over her with a car and crushed her with a block of concrete. They then set her body alight on the bank of the Kabul River.
The attack was filmed by many people in the mob, and the footage widely distributed on social media. Of the 49 people convicted, including 19 policemen accused of dereliction of duty, 37 were released last month ahead of their appeals.