Jailed Afghan rape victim still in prison, despite pardon

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2011 10:29 AM
Jailed Afghan rape victim still in prison, despite pardon

By Jan Harvey

KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan woman who was jailed for "forced adultery" after a relative raped her, and then officially pardoned after an international outcry over the case, is still in prison nearly two weeks after a judicial panel announced she could go free.

Sex outside marriage -- even in cases of rape -- is one of several "moral crimes" for which women are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan. Others include running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage.

Gulnaz, now 21, was attacked by her cousin's husband in 2009 and then given a two-year sentence for "adultery by force." She gave birth to a daughter behind bars.

Her sentence was increased to 12 years on appeal, but she was told she would be released if she agreed to marry her attacker.

A third appeal in late November saw her sentence cut back again to three years, and dropped the requirement that she marry her rapist, who is serving a seven-year sentence.

Her imprisonment attracted international disapproval. Calling for her release prior to her pardon, Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir William Patey, said: "Any woman who is raped should be seen as a victim. They're not criminals."

The presidential palace on December 1 said Gulnaz had been granted clemency, but she is still in a Kabul jail. Her lawyer says she understands from conversations with lawmakers that most prisoners in her position are freed within two days.

"It does seem unusual that the president would issue a pardon on December 1 and almost two weeks later, she is still in jail," Kimberley Motley saud.

"It is really becoming overwhelming for her, being in this situation. The anticipation of getting out is really coming down on her hard."

Neither the attorney general's office nor the presidential palace could be reached for comment on the case Tuesday.

While in jail, Gulnaz had reluctantly agreed to marry her rapist, telling filmmakers who were documenting her story that she felt it would ensure a better future for her daughter.

Motley said the father of Gulnaz's attacker has been to visit her in prison three times since her pardon, apparently to try to persuade her to marry his son.

On the last occasion on which he visited, he persuaded her to put her thumbprint on a document which she could not read, Motley said. She has not been able to ascertain what the document contained.

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Ron Popeski)