- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani woman gang-raped three years ago on tribal council orders took her case from her dusty village to the capital yesterday, demanding the Supreme Court reinstate the death penalty against five of her purported attackers.

Mukhtar Mai, 36, has won international praise for having the courage to speak out about the assault, a brutal form of tribal justice still prevalent in parts of the Muslim country.

Rights activists have accused the government of trying to silence her, and she was barred by President Pervez Musharraf from visiting the United States to talk about her case. The government lifted the ban last week after Washington protested.

Miss Mai appeared happy and relaxed at the hearing yesterday, held under heavy police guard. Diplomats and dozens of human rights activists congregated in a show of support.

The June 2002 gang rape was ordered by a council of elders in the village of Meerwala, about 350 miles southwest of Islamabad, as punishment for a purported affair by Miss Mai’s 13-year-old brother with another woman. Miss Mai says the accusation was fabricated to cover up a sexual assault against her brother by men from her Mastoi clan.

Eschewing a culture of shame that often surrounds rape victims here, Miss Mai made her case public, leading to the conviction of six men who were sentenced to death. Eight others were acquitted.

But in March an appeals court overturned the convictions of five of the men, and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison, citing a lack of evidence.

That same month, the country’s top Islamic court stepped in and reinstated the convictions of the six men. But days later the Supreme Court intervened, questioning whether the Islamic court had jurisdiction in the case, and decided to hear Miss Mai’s appeal itself.

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