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Saturday, 3 August, 2002, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Pakistan woman tells of rape ordeal
The accused men being led into court
The accused men face possible death sentences

A woman allegedly sentenced to gang rape by a village council in southern Pakistan has testified at a court in Punjab's Dera Ghazi Khan town about her ordeal.

Mukhtaran Bibi
Mukhtaran Bibi gave a chilling testimony

Mukhtaran Bibi described how the four men on trial dragged her into a hut and raped her, a crime for which they may face the death penalty if found guilty.

Face-to-face with the men who are on trial for raping her, Mukhtaran Bibi described how she was asked to appear before the informal village council to apologise for the alleged misdemeanour of her 12-year old brother.

He had been accused of an illicit affair with an older woman.

He says the story was concocted to cover up the fact that he had been sodomised by three men earlier in the day and threatened to report the incident.

Walking half-naked

Mukhtaran Bibi testified that when she apologised to the council, made up of village elders in Punjab's Muzaffargarh area, one man said she should be pardoned.

But another man suddenly stood up, Ms Bibi testified, and said she should be raped.

She described begging the council to save her, but they took no notice and four men raped her while hundreds of villagers did nothing to stop the assault.

Afterwards, Mukhtaran Bibi said she was forced to walk home half-naked in full public view, covered only with a piece of cloth.

Pakistani society shocked

For the next four days she says armed men prevented her family from leaving their home.

The case is being heard behind closed doors by a special anti-terrorism court which has been given three weeks to finish the trial.

The four men accused of rape could face the death penalty while 10 others alleged to have taken part in the illegal council that passed the sentence of rape themselves face prison sentences.

The case shocked Pakistani society, but a human rights organisation recently reported that 150 rapes have taken place in the same area of southern Punjab in the last six months alone.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Gordon Harcourt
"Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty"
The BBC's Frances Harrison
"Hundreds of villagers did nothing to stop the assault"
See also:

25 Jul 02 | South Asia
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