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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2005, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Pakistan rape acquittals rejected
Mukhtar Mai after the Supreme Court ruling
Ms Mai said she was "very happy" with the decision
Pakistan's Supreme Court has suspended the acquittals of five men in a notorious gang rape case that has sparked worldwide outrage.

The Lahore High Court had in March acquitted the five who are accused of raping Mukhtar Mai in 2002, allegedly on a village council's order.

Ms Mai, who had appealed against the acquittals, said she was delighted with the decision and hoped for justice.

The court ordered the men be detained in custody pending the appeal hearings.

'Lack of evidence'

The Supreme Court agreed to suspend the acquittals following appeals by Ms Mai, 33, and the government.

I hope those who humiliated me will be punished
Mukhtar Mai

No date was set for formally hearing Ms Mai's and the government's petitions.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said the court would re-examine the evidence in the case.

In his ruling, he ordered 14 men - the five acquitted by the Lahore court, a sixth man whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by that court and another eight men acquitted at the original trial - be held in custody.

The arrest order is a legal mechanism as all 14 men are already in custody.

320 reported rapes in first nine months of 2004
350 reported gang rapes in same period
Many more cases go unreported
39 people arrested
Police cases registered in only a third of reported rapes
Source: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Ms Mai, who was in court with human rights activists to hear Tuesday's ruling, said: "I am very happy. I am feeling highly satisfied.

A village council allegedly ordered the rape because her younger brother was seen with a woman from the more influential Mastoi clan.

Ms Mai and her brother say the allegations were made to cover up a sexual assault on the boy by a group of Mastoi men.

Her lawyers had argued that the Lahore High Court's decision to acquit was faulty and based on conjecture.

'Three choices'

The case acquired political overtones after President Pervez Musharraf barred Ms Mai from travelling abroad, fearing she might undermine Pakistan's image.

Supreme Court of Pakistan
Ms Mai's case will be an example for other women in the same situation
Aarsi Sagar, Manila, Philippines

The government has stationed police at her home in Meerwala, in central Punjab province, saying she needs protection.

But she has complained that she is under virtual house arrest.

On Monday Ms Mai confirmed she had now been given back her passport.

Critics of Pakistan's judicial and social systems say the Mukhtar Mai case is an example of appalling treatment often handed out to women, particularly in feudal, rural areas.

President Musharraf says the case is not representative.

"We are no worse than any other developing country," he said earlier this month during a tour of New Zealand.

Ms Mai spoke of her ordeal in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor on Monday.

She said: "I had three choices. Either to commit suicide by jumping in a well or shed tears all my life like any other victim in such cases, or challenge the cruel feudal and tribal system and harsh attitudes of society."

She also said she had been flooded with marriage proposals but believed most were motivated by greed.

"I could see dollars flashing in their eyes. I tell them if you want to marry me then live with me in the village and serve the people. Then they don't return."

Ms Mai described the decision as a first step to justice

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