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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Releases ordered in rape case
Mukhtar Mai
Mukhtar Mai: "Justice means those who raped me should hang"
Twelve men imprisoned in connection with one of Pakistan's most notorious rape cases must be released by Monday, a court has ordered.

The case centres on Mukhtar Mai who was gang raped in 2002 allegedly on the orders of a tribal council to punish a crime attributed to her brother.

The case brought women's rights in Pakistan under international focus.

It has become bogged down in a number of appeals and counter-appeals over the men's guilt.

'No justification'

At present 12 men are behind bars following an order by the Punjab provincial government in March that ordered their detention for 90 days.

That period ends on Monday and the Lahore High Court has now ruled that there are no grounds for extending their detention.

"The review board (of the Lahore High Court) has held that there is no justification for the detention of these people and has ordered their release after depositing surety bonds of 50,000 rupees ($840) from each of them," Malik Saleem, a lawyer for the 12 men, told the Reuters news agency.

Ms Mai says she will try to get the authorities to prevent the men's release.

This is the latest twist in a number of legal developments:

  • 2002: Six men sentenced to death, eight acquitted

  • March 2005 - Lahore high court acquits five men, and reduces death sentence on sixth to life in prison

  • March 2005 - Sharia court suspends Lahore high court decision

  • March 2005 - Prime Minister Aziz orders re-arrest of four of the accused

  • March 2005 - Punjab government arrests 12 men originally implicated in case

  • June 2005 - Lahore high court says 12 men must be released

The attack on Ms Mai took place in the village of Meerwala, in southern Punjab province, in February 2002.

Ms Mai has used donations she has received since her case gained international attention to open a school there. There was outrage among women's groups last March when the Lahore High Court acquitted those found guilty of the rape by an anti-terrorism court.

The Lahore court ruled that there was insufficient evidence and incorrect investigation procedures in the case.

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08 Mar 05 |  South Asia

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