A Kabul court sentenced 11 Afghan police officers to one year in prison Tuesday for failing to protect a woman who was beaten to death by an angry mob that falsely accused her of burning pages of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
The verdict came nearly two weeks after the court sentenced four civilians to death in the March 19 killing of 27-year-old Farkhunda, whose case made international headlines after cellphone videos showed her being beaten and set on fire by a crowd of men as police did little to intervene.
An additional eight police officers were acquitted Tuesday of charges of negligence.
The death of Farkhunda, a former madrasa student and Koran teacher who like many Afghans used only one name, sparked protests in Kabul and other Afghan cities as demonstrators called for justice and sharply criticized police officers. She was beaten outside the Shah-Do Shamshira shrine in Kabul and run over by a car before being burned to death in a dry patch of the nearby Kabul River.
During the trial, police said they were ill equipped to handle the mob of hundreds gathered at the shrine and river. Other officers said they did not receive word of the attack until much later.
However, many have questioned the court rulings, especially in the initial trial that saw four men sentenced to death and eight others sentenced to 16 years in prison, while 18 others had charges against them dropped due to lack of evidence.
Many Afghans say the defendants who were convicted do not appear to be the same men shown in the videos to be at the center of the attack. At least three suspects in the killing are still at large, Afghan police say.
To some, the sentences seemed to be an effort by Afghan authorities to show they have taken action in the closely watched case. Farkhunda’s family members have said they have little faith that all the people who were responsible for her death were standing trial.
Shinkai Karokhel, a lawmaker from Kabul, questioned the handing out of collective sentences. One defendant who reportedly claimed to have struck Farkhunda twice was sentenced to 16 years.
“Of the eight people who were given 16-year sentences, how can we be certain that they all committed the same crime worthy of the same punishment?” Karokhel said.
Karokhel also expressed concern about the 18 individuals who had charges against them dropped. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the unfolding attack.
“Even if all they did was stand back and watch, doing that means their inaction led to a murder,” she said. “None of them could have stood up and tried to help her?”
Elsewhere in Kabul, a vehicle suicide bomb at a parking facility belonging to the Justice Ministry left at least four people dead and an additional 24 wounded.
The Tuesday afternoon attack occurred just as many workers were heading home through the crowded Pashtunistan Roundabout. The Interior Ministry confirmed that a woman was among the four killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in a statement. Two previous attacks claimed by the Taliban over the last month targeted workers of the attorney general’s office.
Latifi is a special correspondent.