12 Pakistanis in High-Profile Rape Released

A Pakistani court has ordered the release of a dozen men detained in connection with the 2002 gang-rape of a woman in what she said was a retaliatory "honor" attack.

The men had been jailed since March on an order that will expire next week. A court review board in Lahore (search) on Friday denied a government request for a three-month extension, said Mohammed Shahid, a court official.

It was not clear when they might be freed.

A total of 13 men were captured in 2002 after Mukhtar Mai (search), then 33, came forward to tell of her ordeal. She said she was raped on orders from a village council, which said it was punishment for her brother's alleged illicit affair with a woman from another family.

In August 2002, six suspects were sentenced to death and the other eight acquitted.

But in March of this year, another court overturned the convictions of five men and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison, sparking an outcry from human rights groups in both Pakistan (search) and abroad.

Authorities re-arrested all 13 men following the court decisions. The man who had his sentence reduced to life in prison will remain jailed despite the latest ruling.

Mai told The Associated Press by telephone that she would appeal the decision.

"I will ask the government not to free them," she said from Meerwala, a village near the central city of Multan.

Mai said her name had suddenly been included on a government list of people who cannot leave the country. She also said police deployed at her house were also not allowing her to travel to other cities. "I don't know what is happening and what the government wants."

Mai, who still lives in the village along with her family, is from the Gujar clan, while her alleged attackers were from a clan considered socially higher, called Mastoi.

She has denied that her brother, who was 13 at the time, had relations with a woman from the Mastoi clan.

She says the clan fabricated the story to cover up another incident in which her brother was sexually assaulted by Mastoi men.