NEW DELHI: The murderers of Farkhunda, the Afghan woman who was lynched and set on fire, won’t meet the same fate just as yet, as an Afghan court has overturned the death sentence earlier, rewarded to four of the most gruesome actors into a 20 years sentence.

The court had identified the culprits on the basis of a video made during the chilling beating up of the woman who had tried warning the people outside one of the most famous mosques, Shah-du-Shamshira, in Kabul, against the sham cure-alls and knick-knacks being sold to them by the petty sellers there. She had argued that there weren’t any power in those elements and Islam didn’t have anything to do with that. The aggravated sellers took the reasoning as apostasy and called for a witch-hunting of, as revealed later, the ‘Koran-Scholar’. She was beaten up by the feral mob in a modern day version of ‘auto-de-fe’ or ‘act of faith’ and set her on fire on the banks of Kabul River.

The ‘faithless’ since has been hailed as a martyr and took the Afghan society and politics out their apathy towards women. Even her coffin was carried off to grave by women, wailing and calling for justice throughout, in an act of defiance for the paternalistic society. Ministry of Religion, too, had promised to rid of fortune-tellers and quacks hovering around the mosques in a retaliatory act, immediately after the provocative street-swarming of Afghan women demanding action against the killers.

But the commutation of the sentence is being seen as an act of retreat from doing too much, quite seemingly under political pressure.

The decision, “completely undermines the rule of law in Afghanistan, and it completely undermines women’s rights in Afghanistan,” said Kimberley Motley, the lawyer who represented Farkhunda’s family at the trial. “This case presented a wider issue than Farkhunda being murdered, as heinous as that was. This case was about the future of Afghanistan: whether it is going to be a country that accepts mob violence or a country that rejects it,” New York Times reported.

In May, the appeals court had slapped death sentence on four of the most vicious actor and rewarded 16 years sentence to eight others. Now, three of the primary four will get 20 years instead of death, while the fourth one is getting 10 years.

“The verdict of 20 years means freedom; it means they will be released. We want the earlier decision for the death penalty,” Farkhunda’s brother Najibullah, 37, said.

Even the lawyers of the war-torn country have spoken against the secrecy with which the trial has been conducted, barring initial days when it happened to be one of the rare cases where court-proceedings were televised.

“This is against the constitution. The courts should be open to the public, and this closed-door hearing undermines the credibility of the sentences,” said Shukria Barakzai, a lawmaker and women’s rights advocate.

“Farkhunda’s case does not just belong to her family any more; it belongs to all the people of Afghanistan who need assurance that they can have confidence in the law, in the rule of law.”

Motley is no longer officially connected to the case after she said, “the government pressured me not to represent the family any longer.”