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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 16:58 GMT
Rape-victim village given guards
Mukhtar Mai
Despite the police presence, Ms Mai fears for her safety
Thirty policemen have been sent to the village of a high-profile Pakistani rape victim after the release of four of the men acquitted of attacking her.

The four have returned to the village where the attack occurred and where Mukhtar Mai still lives, police said.

She was raped in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a tribal council to punish a crime attributed to her brother.

The Supreme Court ordered the release of the men on Tuesday, two weeks after another court upheld their appeals.

Legal wrangle

The four left the high-security jail in Dera Ghazi Khan, 500km (300 miles) from the capital, Islamabad, to return to the village of Meerwala, about 65km away.

Police officer Mohammed Iqbal told the Associated Press the men had been ordered "to stay away from Mukhtar Mai's house".

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

Despite the police presence, Ms Mai said: "Those who were freed from jail can take any action against us."

She is now travelling to Islamabad to file her appeal to the Supreme Court.

She has also written to the government calling for the men to be taken back into custody until the Supreme Court decides the case.

Ms Mai, 33, now runs a school in the village.

Fourteen people were originally accused of being involved in the case but eight of them were found not guilty in August 2002.

The remaining six were sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court.

The defendants' appeal to the Lahore High Court was heard two weeks ago and five of the six were acquitted.

The death sentence of the sixth was commuted to life.

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

The acquitted man not yet released has been detained on unrelated charges, officials said.

Hudood laws

The acquittals shocked human rights groups, sparking country-wide protests.

An Islamic court then suspended the Lahore High Court acquittals, saying that the latter had no right to hear the appeal.

Legislation allows the Sharia court to hear any criminal case that falls under Islamic laws called the Hudood laws. These cases include rape and adultery.

But fearing a legal wrangle, the Supreme Court said it was taking over and will hear future appeals.


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