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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 March, 2005, 16:32 GMT
Pakistan queries rape acquittals
Mukhtar Mai
Mai's is one of many such cases in Pakistan
The Pakistan government is to appeal against the acquittal of five men convicted of a gang-rape in a so-called "honour" punishment.

They had been sentenced to death but the verdict was overturned by the Lahore High Court last Thursday.

Mukhtar Mai was raped in 2002 as an alleged punishment after her younger brother was accused of sexually assaulting a woman from a senior clan.

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

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the BBC: "We have decided to file an appeal shortly in the Supreme Court."

Safety fears

Village elders allegedly ordered the punishment 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 Lahore this week. A sixth man, one of the village elders, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

The men have not yet been released, but Ms Mai, who is also intending to appeal against the ruling, 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.

The case has caused outrage around the world

Pakistan rape victim 'in danger'
05 Mar 05 |  South Asia
Anger at Pakistan rape acquittals
04 Mar 05 |  South Asia
Acquittals in Pakistan gang rape
03 Mar 05 |  South Asia
School hope for rape victim
07 Dec 04 |  South Asia
Protests over Pakistan gang rape
03 Jul 02 |  South Asia
Pakistan woman tells of rape ordeal
03 Aug 02 |  South Asia

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