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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 12:43 GMT
Rape ruling in Pakistan suspended
Mukhtar Mai
Ms Mai and the defendants must attend a new Sharia hearing
An Islamic court in Pakistan has suspended a High Court ruling that acquitted five men in a high-profile rape case.

The Islamic - or Sharia - judges ordered the rape victim, Mukhtar Mai, and all the defendants in the case to attend a new hearing.

A tribal council allegedly ordered the rape in February 2002 as punishment for a crime attributed to Ms Mai's brother.

Rights groups had expressed shock at last week's acquittals.

Uncommon intervention

On Friday, the Federal Sharia Court suspended the judgment of the Lahore High Court which exonerated five of the six men accused in the rape case and commuted the death sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment.

The Sharia judges said they were acting according to the constitution which allows them to suspend any judgment of any criminal court pending their own ruling.

Mai Multan protest
Pakistani rights groups say Ms Mai (left) has shown courage

They ordered Ms Mai, the six defendants and seven men acquitted in an earlier decision to attend the new hearing. No date was given.

The BBC News website's Aamer Ahmed Khan says it is not common for the Federal Sharia Court to make such a high-profile intervention.

The court has spent most of its time since establishment in 1980 reviewing Pakistani laws to determine whether they conflict with Islamic injunctions.

But legislation does allow the Sharia court to hear any criminal case that falls under Islamic laws called the Hudood laws. These cases include rape and adultery.

The Sharia court argues Ms Mai's case should have been tried under Hudood laws and not anti-terrorist legislation.


There was widespread criticism of the High Court acquittals by human rights groups and political parties. The court ruled there was insufficient evidence and incorrect investigation procedures.

Schoolchildren in Pakistan
Ms Mai built schools in her village with her compensation money

Ms Mai last week announced she would file an appeal to the Supreme Court and said the men should not be freed until it was heard.

The Pakistani government also criticised the acquittals and said it would appeal.

Hundreds of Ms Mai's supporters have attended protest rallies since the acquittals.

A joint statement issued by several leading non-government organisations saluted Ms Mai's courage and bravery in taking on the system.

Hundreds of women are killed or injured in "honour" attacks in Pakistan every year.

Village elders allegedly ordered Ms Mai's rape in February 2002 after allegations surfaced that her then 12-year-old brother had had sex with a woman from a more prominent clan. He denied the charges.

Amid international outcry at the rape, four of her alleged rapists and two village elders were sentenced to death the same year.

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05 Mar 05 |  South Asia
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School hope for rape victim
07 Dec 04 |  South Asia

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