The Paghman gang rape trial began in Kabul on Sunday with the primary court finding seven of the 10 perpetrators guilty of armed robbery, kidnapping and raping of four women. The three other men involved in the case are said to be on the run from the law.
Primary court judge Saifullah Mujadidi, convicted three criminals on counts of rape and the four others on counts of armed robbery, kidnapping and guilty by association. The judge ruled that the seven convicts will be sentenced to death. He underlined that Sunday's verdict is not final reminding the public that the offenders have the right to appeal per due process.
The prosecutor, Hamidullah, presented the court with facts and confessions of the criminals that illustrated and confirmed the rape of the four women.
Representing the offenders, defense attorney Hazar Mir presented to the court that his clients' actions were influenced by "evil" and their social standings.
"These people (referring to his clients) were deceived by evil," Mir said, presenting his defense to the court. "I believe their actions are because of evil influences and because they are poor."
In just a few hours, the first hearing was completed with the head judge of the third district court of Kabul, Mujadidi, sentencing the criminals to death.
"In addition to serving 20 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, these men are sentenced to death for rape," read Mujadidi. He added that the verdict pronounced during Sunday's trial is not final; two more hearing sessions will be held.
The court proceedings were broadcasted on live television in response to the national outrage of the heinous act.
Amid the trial, demonstrators took to the streets of Kabul, outside of the court, demanding that the offenders be issued the death penalty.
Hundreds of demonstrators, young and old, weak and strong, male and female were all walking side by side with mixed emotions of anger, sadness and revenge chanting: "my sister is your sister" and "my dignity is your dignity."
Two senior women in their 70s were walking among the hundreds of protestors in the unforgiving heat, yelling as loudly as they could with their fists in the air demanding justiceâ€"in this case, pressuring for the issuance of the death penalty.
"They must be hung in an intersection so that everyone can 'pluck' their flesh piece by piece," one of the two senior women said as her voice was cracking and eyes filled with tears.
The incident, which occurred over two weeks ago in Paghman, has reaped national indignation because of the appalling nature of the crime and because those involved were previously in custody, but were released prior to their set sentencing time.
President Hamid Karzai upon hearing of the incident declared that he will not delay signing off on the death penalty, in spite of his repugnance of the punishment.
"I am strongly against the death penalty and I have always been against it, but I have asked for the death penalty, and I asked the Chief Justice to issue a death sentence, for these criminals," Karzai said at a women's group event on Saturday.