Six men found guilty in gang rape
DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan -- A judge sentenced six men to death by hanging Sunday for their roles in the gang rape of a woman whose brother was accused of having relations with a higher-caste woman, the prosecutor said.
A judge in an anti-terrorism court trial in Dera Ghazi Khan convicted four of the men of raping 30-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi, said prosecuting attorney Malik Ramzan Joya.
Two other men were convicted of abetting the rape. They were part of a 10-person tribal council that authorized the rape. The other eight members were acquitted.
After Bibi's brother was accused of having relations with a higher-caste woman, members of her family called a tribal council to determine proper punishment.
That punishment was for the four men to gang rape the man's sister. The rape occurred June 22 in Meerawala, a small town in Punjab province in central Pakistan.
Bibi was dragged to a house, where she was raped. She then was thrown out of the house and forced to walk nearly naked to her parents' house as hundreds of villagers stared at her.
The case sparked outrage across Pakistan.
The verdict was announced shortly after midnight. The woman's lawyer said her client -- who lives with her parents -- had not been told of the verdict, because of the late hour.
The men have seven days to appeal the verdict.
Earlier, Bibi appealed to the government for a safer place to live, saying she has been threatened with revenge if the men were convicted.
Bibi told Reuters news agency that relatives of the defendants had threatened to kill members of her family if the 14 were convicted.
"We are receiving death threats," Bibi told Reuters from her home in Meerawala.
The four convicted of rape come from the wealthy Mastoi clan.
"They have told us that if their four people are sentenced to death, they would kill eight of our men," Bibi said.
"Not only my family, but those who supported us are being threatened with dire consequences."
Police protection has been provided for the family but has done little to ease fears of revenge.
When the 10 village elders ordered the rape, it sent shockwaves across the country and made headlines around the world casting the spotlight on Pakistan's police and judicial system.
In July, the supreme court in Islamabad issued a stinging rebuke of local police accusing them of negligence for failing to even register a case until more than a week after the rape took place.
As a result of perceived security threats, the 23-day trial was held behind closed doors at the special anti-terrorism court.
Extra security forces were deployed in the town ahead of the expected verdict with an increased police presence in Meerwala.
Prior to the rape, Bibi says she turned to the village's tribal council after her brother was kidnapped by a family from the Mastoi clan and accused of raping one of its members.
The brother, Abdul Shakoor, was reportedly sodomized by Mastoi men as punishment.
However, the council's elders ruled that in order to save the honor of the Mastoi family, Shakoor would have to marry the woman with whom he was linked.
Furthermore the council ruled Bibi was to be given away in marriage to a Mastoi man.
The prosecution charges that when Bibi rejected that decision she was gang-raped by four Mastoi men.
The woman's father said he was forced to witness the rape, although he begged continually for the attackers to stop.
A defense lawyer for one of the accused argued during the trial that the rape charge against his client was invalid because Bibi was technically married to him at the time.
CNN Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-Har Quraishi contributed to this story