Afghan mob killing trial under way
The trial of 49 suspects, including 19 police officers, on charges relating to the mob killing of an Afghan woman started in the capital Kabul today.
The opening of the trial at Afghanistan's Primary Court was broadcast live on nationwide television.
The suspects all face charges relating to the March 19 killing of a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda.
The court heard that the policemen are charged with neglecting their duties and failing to prevent the assault, although some are suspected of participating as well.
Prosecutors have alleged that Farkhunda was beaten to death in an attack sparked by a false accusation that she had burned a copy of the Quran.
The killing shocked many Afghans, though some public and religious figures said it would have been justified if she in fact had damaged a copy of the Muslim holy book.
Mobile phone footage of the assault circulated widely on social media. It showed Farkhunda, who like many Afghans went by only one name, being beaten, run over with a car and burned before her body was thrown into the Kabul River.
The incident sparked nationwide outrage as well as a civil society movement to limit the power of clerics, strengthen the rule of law and improve women's rights.
Safiullah Mojadedi, head of the Primary Court, called for senior officials including the Kabul Police Chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi and the Interior Ministry's chief criminal investigator General Mohammad Zahir to attend court tomorrow.
Afghanistan's judicial system has long faced criticism for its inability to offer the majority of Afghans access to justice.
Women, especially, are sidelined, despite constitutional guarantees of equality and protection from violence, a recent report by the United Nations concluded.
The attack on Farkhunda was widely seen as symptomatic of the general low regard for women in Afghan society, where violence against them often goes unpunished.
The trial is seen as a crucial test case of the government's commitment to ensuring that legal protections are applied fairly to all citizens.