Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Gang-rape victim at risk in Pakistan


A woman who was gang-raped on orders from a village council asked the government yesterday to lift restrictions on her movement, a day after a court ordered the release of a dozen men detained in her high-profile case.

Mukhtar Mai, 36, said she had suddenly been included without explanation on a government list of people who cannot leave Pakistan.

"Now, police deployed at my home for my protection are not allowing me to go anywhere," Mai told reporters by phone from Meerwala village, about 565km southwest of Islamabad where she lives with her family.

"I demand that all restrictions on my movement be lifted so that I could travel to Islamabad to meet with my lawyer," she said.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Mai, who was raped to punish her family after her brother allegedly had an illicit affair with a woman from another family, made her comments a day after a court in the eastern city of Lahore ordered the release of 12 men who were detained in March in connection with her rape.

A total of 14 men were detained in June 2002 after Mai came forward and told of her ordeal. In August 2002, six suspects were sentenced to death and the other eight acquitted.

But in March of this year, another court overturned the convictions of five men, and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison, sparking an outcry from domestic and international human rights groups. The man who had his sentence reduced to life in prison will remain jailed despite the latest ruling.

Police re-arrested all 13 men following the court decisions and they had been jailed since March on an order that will expire next week. A review board of the Lahore High Court has denied a government request for a three-month extension, according to Mohammed Shahid, a court official.

It was not clear when they might be freed, although presumably the government can hold them at least until the original order expires. Mai says she will appeal the decision.

She has denied that her brother, who was 13 at the time, had relations with a woman from the Mastoi clan and says the clan fabricated the story to cover up another incident in which her brother was allegedly sexually assaulted by Mastoi men.

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