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Trial Starts In Mob Killing Of Afghan Woman

Afghan civil society activist women weep and lie on the grave of Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched by an angry mob in Kabul on March 22.

The first trial of suspects in the mob killing of an Afghan woman in March has begun in the capital, Kabul.

The trial, which is being broadcast live on television, opened on May 2 and charges 49 suspects, including several police officers, in connection with the brutal March 19 killing of a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda.

In the session, the court heard that the policemen are charged with neglecting their duties and failing to prevent the assault, although some of them are suspected of actually participating.

Prosecutors allege Farkhunda was beaten and bludgeoned to death in a frenzied attack sparked by accusations that she had burned a copy of the Koran.

The police later said that there was no evidence to support the Koran-burning allegation.

After Farkhunda was killed, the mob lit her body on fire and dumped it into the Kabul River.

The lengthy attack took place in broad daylight outside the Shah-e Doshamshira shrine, in full view of police, and just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.

The incident sparked days of protests as well as a civil-society movement to limit the power of clerics and improve women's rights.

After the attack, the authorities quickly went into damage-control mode, with President Ashraf Ghani ordering the Interior Ministry, Ulema Council, and leadership of the shrine to take part in the investigation.

The Associated Press reported that Safiullah Mojadedi, the head of the Primary Court, has called for senior officials, including Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi and Mohammad Zahir, the head of the Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigation Directorate, to attend the court session on May 3.

The country's judicial system has long faced criticism for its inability to offer many 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.

With reporting by AP