An Afghan judge has sentenced seven men to death for the brutal robbery and gang rape of four women in a case that has sparked outrage across Afghanistan.
The men were all found guilty on September 7 of kidnapping, robbing, and attacking female members of a group that was driving back into Kabul from a wedding outside the city.
Police said a large group of men on August 23 had stopped a convoy of cars in which the women were traveling, along with their families, in the district of Paghman, just outside of the Afghan capital.
Some of the attackers were dressed in police uniforms and armed with assault rifles.
The attackers pulled the women out of their cars in the middle of the night -- including one woman who was pregnant -- and raped them in a field near the main road.
The women also were beaten and their jewelry and mobile phones were stolen.
One of the victims subsequently died of her injuries.
The case has raised concerns about public security in Afghanistan after most foreign troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force leave the country by the end of 2014.
It also brought out angry protesters near the Kabul court as the proceedings were broadcast live on Afghan television.
Under Afghan law, Afghanistan’s president must ratify an execution before it can be carried out.
Afghanistan’s outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, told a delegation of women last week that the perpetrators should be executed.
Kabul's police chief echoed that sentiment in remarks to a crowd outside the courtroom.
The convicted men also have a right to appeal the September 7 verdict and death sentence to a higher court.
It was not immediately clear how long that appeals process might take, or whether Karzai would still be in office if the guilty verdicts and death sentences are upheld by higher courts.
Rights activists say many rape cases in Afghanistan are never reported because it is considered a dishonor by many Afghans to be a rape victim.
There have been cases where women rape victims in Afghanistan have later become the victims of so-called honor killings by their own family members.
Also, under Shari'a law, victims must provide four witnesses to prove the crime or they could, themselves, be charged with adultery.
But in the case that led to the death sentences on September 7, the victims were encouraged by their families to seek justice.
Some of the victims also testified while wearing an all-encompassing burqa or other clothing that kept their identities hidden from the television cameras while they pointed out their attackers from a lineup in the courtroom.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP