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Press Release — May 15, 2002

Pakistan: No Justice For Pakistani Rape Victims

Court fails to punish perpetrators of gang rape

(Lahore, Pakistan – May 15, 2002) In a packed courtroom in the town of Feroze Wala near Lahore, Justice Zahoor-ul- Haq announced the decision in favor of the perpetrators of a gang rape case involving eight Christian young women.

According to the decision of the court, three of the six accused, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Abbas, and Mohammad Iftakhar, each received a sentence of two years imprisonment with a fine of $200 on weapons charges. In the event of non-payment of fine, the accused shall undergo an additional six-months in prison.

The remaining three accused, Mohammad Arif, Mohammad Anwar, and Mohammad Bashir, shall be set free. The latter three were given the “benefit of doubt” and acquitted.

So far as the eight young womens’ accusations of rape (section 10 of Zina ordinance 979) are concerned, the court determined that the charges could not be proved and that the “investigation reports and witnesses cast doubt on this offense,” despite oral testimonies presented as evidence.

The case against these accused rapists was registered on 8th May 2000, under FIR No 315 by the eight Christian young women who were gang raped as they were returning to their homes after completing their work in the Lavira clothing factory. The names and ages of the victims are:

1. Farzana Butta 16 years old
2. Shaheen Butta 18 years old
3. Navila Bashir 18 years old
4. Saima 17 years old
5. Nazia Noor 16 years old
6. Shanila Barkat 16 years old
7. GulzarBibi 35 years old
8. Farzana Bashir 18 years old

All the young women testified of being forcefully raped by their Muslim captors who had stopped the van in which they were riding and at gun point were ordered out as the Muslim females were told to stay in the van. The Christian young women were brutally raped by their six Muslim captors. The police investigated all these facts and filed a report in the court, in which it was clearly mentioned that the young women were raped and that weapons had been recovered that were used by the culprits. The medical examiner also presented a medical report of the young women, which also clearly provided evidence about the rape of the young women. A few witnesses, including police, also recorded statements in favor of the young women.

The court held a series of hearings during the past two years and ultimately favored the Muslim defendants due to influence and pressure from Muslim supporters of the defendants. During the hearings, a large number of boisterous and vocally abusive Muslim friends and relatives were present. Threats were frequently made against the Christian young women and their families. When the judge finally announced his decision, the supporters of the accused raised Islamic slogans and expressed their joy for the judge’s decision saying, “We scored a victory from the infidels.”

The eight young women, accompanied by their lawyers, families and supporters, quickly fled the court room. All were crying as they were overcome with grief and fear. One of the advocates for the eight young women, who asked not to be named, told International Christian Concern, a Washington, DC human rights group that has closely monitored the case, “We were all shocked at the outcome of this controversial case and the token decision of the Judge that clearly favored the rapists while giving no concern for the victims. We think this is the height of anti-Christian bias.”

The options that now remain for the eight young women include: 1) Appeal in the same court for reversal of the decision, 2) Appeal to the High Court within 30 days, which is very costly. The High Court could overturn the lower court decision and award a punishment that, under Pakistani law, could result in the death plenty for offense of gang rape.

The accused Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Iftakhar and Mohammad Abbass, who have been awarded punishment for two years’ imprisonment and a $200 fine, are eligible for release within a few days because they have already served most of their two year sentence while awaiting trial.

As for the young women and their families, they are reported to be very depressed and feel unsafe and insecure. They fear that the perpetrators may seek revenge and make good on threats that were made against the young women and their families after they filed charges against them.

International Christian Concern is asking for prayer for the strength and safety of these young women and their families in this difficult time. Further action is suggested that includes contacting your elected officials in Washington, DC as well as calling the Pakistani Embassy to express outrage at the lack of justice for victims of rape. The telephone number for the Pakistani Embassy is: (202) 939-6200.