Forty-nine suspects, including 19 Afghan police officers, have gone on trial in Kabul on charges linked to the mob beating death of a 27-year-old woman last month.
The televised proceedings opened Saturday with prosecutors arguing that the victim, Farkhunda, was beaten to death and burned March 19 in a frantic attack sparked by a cleric’s phony claim that she had desecrated a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
Most of the police are charged with neglecting their duty to prevent the attack, though some are suspected of direct participation in the killing.
Widely circulated video showed Farkhunda being beaten and run over by a car before being set on fire. Her body was then thrown into the Kabul River. The video also showed police doing nothing to prevent the attack.
The killing sparked widespread outrage, with the United Nations and President Ashraf Ghani issuing strong condemnations. Afghan human rights activists have vowed to protest the killing until justice is served.
In an unprecedented move in conservative Afghanistan, women’s rights activists on March 22 carried the woman’s coffin through the streets of the capital to her grave. Days later, hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the Afghan Supreme Court to protest the killing.
Afghan news reports quoted the victim’s family as saying the dispute leading to the killing began when Farkhunda confronted a cleric and accused him of misleading followers by distributing trinkets he said would save them from evil and bring good luck.
The reports said the cleric retaliated by accusing Farkhunda of burning the holy book. He then is alleged to have called on followers to punish her for her transgressions.