22 Apr 2011

Acquittals in gang rape case criticised

3:35 pm on 22 April 2011

A human rights organisation has criticised a decision by the Pakistani Supreme Court to acquit five men accused of raping a woman on the orders of the village council.

A sixth was sentenced to life imprisonment, the court upholding a lower court decision to reduce his sentence from the death penalty.

Mukhtaran Mai was attacked in 2002 on the orders of a powerful clan as a punishment because her brother, who was 12 at the time, had allegedly been having an affair with a woman from the clan, the BBC reports.

A spokesperson for the US-based Human Rights Watch, Ali Dayan Hasan, says the verdict sent a "bad signal" to Pakistani society as it suggests women can be abused and raped with impunity

Mukhataran Mai hit world headlines after speaking out about her ordeal in 2002 and has since become an icon for women's rights in Pakistan.

She said she had no more faith in the courts and now feared for her life.

The Supreme Court court has yet to issue a detailed judgement, but the lower court had attributed its decision to a lack of evidence.