Page last updated at 05:44 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 06:44 UK

Afghan inquiry into freed rapists

By Kate Clark
BBC News

An Afghan woman in Kabul on August 25, 2008
Human rights groups say women in Afghanistan suffer abuse with impunity

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has announced a full investigation into the case of two rapists who have been freed on a presidential pardon.

The case was raised by the BBC after it discovered that the victim, Sara, had been forced into hiding by the release of the men.

Sara and husband Dilawar only found out the rapists had been freed when they saw them walking around their village.

The case highlights the endemic corruption in the Afghan legal system.

'Questionable justice'

Dilawar said they were stunned, particularly when they found out President Karzai had apparently pardoned the rapists.

"Our appeal to the president is how on earth a rapist who was involved in disappearance of my son was released. What a decision is this? What a justice system is this?" he said.

The president's office has refused to speculate on how the pardon could have been signed.

But the suspicion must be that corruption - which is widespread across the Afghan justice system - has managed to penetrate the president's office.

A spokesman for Mr Karzai told the BBC that the acting attorney general would lead a commission of investigation.

"We are taking this with extreme seriousness," he said.

It had been a horrifying case which started with the, as yet, unsolved disappearance of the couple's son.

Dilawar said after his wife publicly accused a local commander of the disappearance, she was gang-raped, knifed with a bayonet and left half naked to find her way home.

Sara alleges the commander used connections to escape justice and he was released by a local court.

But three other men were eventually put on trial, found guilty of rape and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

One of them died and the other two were given a presidential pardon in May.

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