Four Afghan men were today sentenced to death for their role in the brutal mob killing of a woman in Kabul in March—a slaying that shocked the nation and spurred calls for authorities to ensure women's rights to equality and protection from violence. The sentences were part of a trial of 49 suspects, including 19 police officers, over the March 19 killing of the 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda who was beaten to death in a frenzied attack sparked by a bogus accusation that she had burned a copy of the Koran. The trial, which began Saturday, involved only two full days of court proceedings—an unusual swiftness in the slow-moving Afghan judicial system. It was broadcast live on national television, reflecting huge public interest in the case.
Judge Safiullah Mojadedi also sentenced eight of the defendants to 16 years in prison and dropped charges against 18; the remaining suspects are to be sentenced on Sunday. Farkhunda's family expressed its displeasure: "The outcome of the trial is not fair and we do not accept it—you saw just four people sentenced to death, but everybody knows that more than 40 people were involved in martyring and burning and beating my sister," her brother tells the AP. "Eighteen people have been freed. The court should punish them and that should be a lesson for anyone who would commit this sort of crime, anywhere in our country, in the future," he adds. The defendants have the right to appeal their sentences. (Read more on the last agonizing and brutal moments of Farkhunda's life.)