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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 20:25 GMT
Pakistan rape victim 'in danger'
Mukhtar Mai
Mai's is one of many such cases in Pakistan
A Pakistani woman who was gang-raped in a so-called "honour" punishment says she fears for her safety after a court overturned the convictions of five men.

Mukhtar Mai says she will appeal against the acquittals, and that she is in danger despite police protection.

A tribal council allegedly imposed the rape as punishment in 2002 after her brother was accused of sexual relations with a woman from a senior clan.

Women's organisations have described the acquittals as "shocking".

Those who had their convictions quashed include a tribal elder accused of ordering the attack on Ms Mai. A second village elder had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Safety fears

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

There's a lot of danger now for me
Mukhtar Mai
The boy denied the charge. The rape was ordered to restore the honour of the clan, prosecutors alleged.

The same year, the four alleged attackers and two village elders were sentenced to death. Five of those convictions were overturned in a local court this week.

The men have not yet been released, but Ms Mai says that if they are, she is sure they will look for her and harm her.

"There's a lot of danger now for me, even though I have policemen protecting me. But I am going to go back to my village, I have to go back there," she told a news conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

"The decision that's been taken by the court saddens me. God willing, I am going to appeal in the Supreme Court, for which I need you people as well," she added, calling on the press for their support.

Accepting fate

Mukhtar Mai has one of Pakistan's most prominent lawyers fighting her case in the Supreme Court.

She also has Pakistan's human and women's right community solidly behind her.

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

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says most women involved in attacks against them which are designed to restore the slighted honour of a family, clan or tribe, accept their fate, believing that tribal or feudal leaders are too powerful to resist and that the police and judicial systems are stacked against them.

The statement said the reason for the increasing violence against women in Pakistan was the fact that men, guilty of assaulting them, were rarely punished.

Hundreds of women are killed or injured in honour attacks each year.

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