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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Rape victim demands her 'freedom'
Mukhtar Mai at Islamabad press conference in March 2005
Mukhtar Mai decided to go public about the rape
The victim of a notorious gang rape in Pakistan has attacked the government for confining her to her home, and preventing her from travelling abroad.

Mukhtar Mai told reporters that she is on an Exit Control List (ECL) which stops her leaving the country.

She told reporters during a visit to Islamabad that she had been kept under "virtual house arrest".

Ms Mai was allegedly raped on the orders of a tribal council. A court has ordered the release of her attackers.

Government under pressure

"I want to live like a free citizen, I should be allowed to move freely and my name should be taken out of the ECL (Exit Control List)," Ms Mai said.

Pakistani officials confirmed earlier this month that they would not allow her to leave the country.

Ms Mai was raped by several men in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a self-styled village council of influential feudal leaders.

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

Following her campaign, 6 men were sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court.

But the verdicts were later overturned by the Lahore High court which cited insufficient evidence. Five were acquitted. The sixth had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment.

Non-government organisations and activists campaigning for women's rights say that the restrictions on Ms Mai's movements reflect the pressure the government is putting on her.

They say the government has shot itself in the foot by introducing the measures, because her case is well known internationally.

The government is fighting an appeal in the Supreme Court against the overturning in March of the convictions of five men sentenced to death for the gang rape of Ms Mai.

It is the latest twist in a number of legal developments in the Mukhtar Mai case:

  • 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

Officials say they are acting entirely in her interests by assigning several dozen police officers to guard her in her home village.

The prime minister has, meanwhile, ordered an investigation into why Ms Mai's travel has been restricted.

"I want to live like a free citizen, I should be allowed to move freely
Mukhtar Mai

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says that Ms Mai is an illiterate woman from rural Pakistan who has emerged as a standard bearer for justice for women.

Our correspondent says that she has taken on the country's system of feudal justice by which a council of elders decides a person's innocence or guilt, and serves punishment.

In Ms Rai's case, the punishment was reported to be gang rape for a sexual indiscretion allegedly committed by her younger brother.

She is now in Islamabad for talks with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's advisor on women's development, Nilofer Bakhtiar.

Pakistan rape case releases delay
13 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Rape victim cannot travel abroad
12 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Releases ordered in rape case
10 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Pakistan rape-case men rearrested
18 Mar 05 |  South Asia
The rape victim who fought back
08 Mar 05 |  South Asia

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