MULTAN, Pakistan – Four men who were sentenced to death for gang-raping a woman in Pakistan but then freed on bail — triggering an outcry from human rights activists — have been arrested again, police said Friday.
The men were convicted nearly three years ago of raping Mukhtar Mai (search), 33, on orders from a village council to punish her family for her young brother's alleged illicit affair with a woman from another family.
The four walked out of jail Tuesday after a judge granted them bail, following an appeals court decision earlier this month overturning their convictions. That ruling angered rights activists and prompted a mass protest by women in Multan (search), the nearest city to Mai's remote home village of Meerwala in eastern Punjab province.
Mai, who has said she fears retaliation if the men remain free, met with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz (search) on Friday in the capital, Islamabad, and asked him to order the men's arrests, according to Kashmala Tariq, a lawmaker who accompanied her.
However, Ahsan Mahboob (search), a local police official, said police already had arrested the men late Thursday after receiving orders from provincial authorities.
It was not immediately known on what legal grounds the four suspects were detained this time, but Mahboob said they would remain in custody pending a decision by the Supreme Court, the nation's highest court.
The Supreme Court intervened in the case last week, giving the parties in Mai's case a week to submit legal documents.
After the appeals court ruling two weeks ago, Pakistan's highest Islamic court reinstated the men's conviction, saying the appeals court had no jurisdiction to rule on the case.
The Shariat Court works separately from the normal legal system but has the power to overturn decisions involving Islamic law, such as in instances of rape, adultery and some cases of murder.
The four men were among six suspects convicted in August 2002 of raping Mai. A fifth had his conviction overturned by the appeals court but was not granted bail. The sixth had his death sentence reduced by the appeals court to life in prison.
Mai told The Associated Press on Thursday that she has recently received threats and wants her attackers to be hanged near her village.