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Judge Sentences 4 Afghan Men To Death For Mob Killing Of Woman


We turn now to Afghanistan and swift justice for a woman who was brutally murdered and then set on fire by a mob in central Kabul. After a weeklong televised trial, a judge today declared a dozen people guilty of the attack and sentenced four of them to death. More convictions are expected on Sunday. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Kabul on reaction to the verdict.


SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: A black and white banner demanding justice for Farkhunda hangs over this market area in Kabul where the 27-year-old was killed by an angry mob in mid-March. Farkhunda, who like many Afghans goes by one name, was falsely accused by a mullah, or religious leader, and his supporters of burning the Quran. Their claims enraged a crowd outside a shrine here and led dozens of people to beat her with their fists, boards and rocks until she was dead.


NELSON: The gruesome attack and desecration of her remains were captured on videos that went viral worldwide, but today Farkhunda got justice, says one university student. We are not naming her because she's received threats.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: At least some people are punished. Some people are going to be sent to prison, and the people who were directly involved with her killing brutally are going to be executed.

NELSON: One of the reasons the student received the threats is because she helped carry Farkhunda's coffin to the grave site, an act that is taboo for women here.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I felt like I have to do this. We are carrying all the violence, all the craziness that's going on against women in this country. And because we've been carrying it on our shoulders and this is something that can happen to any of us, I was like we should be able to carry this, and we don't want the men who killed her to carry her.

NELSON: The student is among the hundreds of Afghans who protested and petitioned the government until it agreed to act against those who killed Farkhunda.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It happened somewhere that everybody could relate to, like, right in front of a mosque in the center of the city, very few blocks away from police and from the Presidential Palace. And people were like, oh, my God, it can happen to anybody.

NELSON: If the sentences are upheld, one of those executed will be the mullah who falsely accused Farkhunda. Some during the trial testified he did so because she had criticized him for sexually taking advantage of women who came to him for help. But back at the market, Mirwais Malekzadeh criticizes the court for, quote, "overdoing it."

MIRWAIS MALEKZADEH: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: The cell phone salesman says "no one is happy when an Afghan Muslim is murdered, especially a pious one like she appears to have been. But sentencing four people to death when only one was killed? That's too many. Cut off their hand, cut off their ear instead." More criticism is likely to come during Friday prayers from mullahs who've been very critical of Farkhunda and her supporters. Their pressure could turn public sentiment and lead to today's sentences being overturned on appeal. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.