KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan court has sentenced a mullah to 20 years in prison after finding the religious teacher guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl.
The sentence, passed by a Kabul judge on Saturday, has been welcomed by family as well as women's support groups as a rare victory in their fight for justice for female victims of sex crimes. Rape is often treated as adultery in Afghanistan, and victims can face prison themselves.
Hassina Sarwari, who runs a shelter for women in northern Kunduz province, where the rape took place, said Sunday that if the trial had not been transferred to Kabul the result would probably have been very different.
The rape took place in May in the girl's home village near the provincial capital, also called Kunduz.
"If the case would have not been transferred to Kabul, we were so worried that the mullah would have not been punished in Kunduz for his crime," said Sarwari. When she saw the girl, Bershna, who like many Afghans only uses one name, for the first time in the hospital she was in a bad condition and required transfer to Kabul for additional treatment.
Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said his colleagues were shocked at first to hear the story but acted immediately to apprehend the mullah. "We sent a police unit to make the arrest, and we caught mullah Mohammad Amin while he was trying to flee," he said.
Sarwari, who followed the case closely, said the crime occurred after the mullah chose three girls to help clean the village mosque. Two escaped when they discovered his intentions but Bershna fell into a nearby stream while trying to flee and Amin took her back to the mosque where he raped her.
"The mullah threatened Bershna, saying that if she told anyone what had happened she and her family would be killed," but the child suffered injuries that could not be hidden.
Mohammad Rasoul, Bershna's uncle who attended the trial, said the family was happy with the sentence.
"We welcome the decision by the judge as that is the maximum punishment he could be given according to our country's law," Rasoul said.