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Afghan Supreme Court Confirms Sentences In Woman's Mob Killing

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Afghan women hold up placards of Farkhunda Malikzada during a protest in Kabul in July 2015.

Afghan women hold up placards of Farkhunda Malikzada during a protest in Kabul in July 2015.

Afghanistan's Supreme Court has confirmed a 20-year prison sentence against a man who falsely accused a woman of burning the Koran, which provoked an angry mob to beat the woman to death near a Muslim shrine in Kabul.

The court also confirmed prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years against 12 others involved in the brutal mob killing of Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old student of Islamic law, in March 2015.

The Supreme Court rulings -- the final stage of the appeals process in the Afghan courts -- were confirmed on March 7 by Basir Azizi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general.

A 60-year-old amulet seller at the shrine, Zainuddin, fabricated the story about the burning of the Koran after Malikzada criticized his peddling as un-Islamic.

Zainuddin and three others were initially sentenced to death in the case by a trial court after video showed them involved in killing Malikzada.

But the sentences against Zainuddin and two others were reduced to 20 years on appeal and the death penalty against the fourth was reduced to 10 years because he was a minor.

Sentences of 16 years for nine other men were also confirmed by the Afghan Supreme Court on March 7, while the court upheld the 10-year sentence against the minor.

Video of Malikzada's brutal murder circulated on social media and shocked people across Afghanistan.

Police later confirmed there was no evidence to support the Koran-burning allegation.

The killing prompted unprecedented protests across Afghanistan.

Malikzada's reputation since the killing also underwent a transformation -- from a pariah to a martyr -- when it became known that she was a student of Islamic law and a devout Muslim who was defending Islam when she was wrongly accused.

Her death also sparked a civil-society movement to limit the power of clerics, strengthen the rule of law, and improve women's rights.

Some rights advocates said that without video footage of Malikzada's killing, the case would have gone unnoticed and unprosecuted.

However, some public and religious figures said the killing would have been justified if Malikzada had in fact damaged a copy of the Muslim holy book.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, The New York Times, and BBC