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Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan President, Pardons Imprisoned Rape Victim

Hamid Karzai Afghanistan

By DEB RIECHMANN   12/ 1/11 02:34 PM ET   AP

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday pardoned an Afghan woman serving a 12-year prison sentence for having sex out of wedlock after she was raped by a relative.

Karzai's office said in a statement that the woman and her attacker have agreed to marry. That would reverse an earlier decision by the 19-year-old woman, who had previously refused a judge's offer of freedom if she agreed to marry the rapist.

Her plight was highlighted in a documentary that the European Union blocked because it feared the women featured in the film would be in danger if it were shown.

More than 5,000 people recently signed a petition urging Karzai to release the woman. She had the man's child while in prison and raised her daughter behind bars, which is common among women imprisoned in Afghanistan.

A statement released by Karzai's office says that after hearing from judicial officials, the decision was made to forgive the rest of the sentence she received for having sex out of wedlock, a crime in Afghanistan. The presidential statement did not say when the woman was to be released or how much prison time had been pardoned.

The woman told The Associated Press in an interview last month that she had hoped that attention generated by the EU film might help her get released. With the film blocked, she said that she was losing hope and considering marrying her rapist as a way out. She said her attacker was pressuring her to stop giving interviews.

About half of the 300 to 400 women jailed in Afghanistan are imprisoned for so-called "moral crimes" such as sex outside marriage, or running away from their husbands, according to reports by the United Nations and research organizations. Fleeing husbands isn't considered a crime in Afghanistan.

The EU welcomed the woman's release.

"Her case has served to highlight the plight of Afghan women, who 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime often continue to suffer in unimaginable conditions, deprived of even the most basic human rights," the European Union's Ambassador and Special Representative to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, said.

He said the EU hoped the same mercy would be extended to other women serving similar terms. Usackas said he planned to raise the issue of Afghan women's rights at an international conference on Afghanistan Dec. 5 in Bonn, Germany.

Some of the most severe restrictions women faced under the Taliban, like a ban on attending schools and having to have a male escort to venture outside the home, were done away with when the radical Islamic movement was driven from power in 2001. But Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative and male-dominated society, meaning women are still sold to husbands and rights enshrined in law are often ignored in practice.

Below, a recent history of Afghanistan:
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  • 1979

    In December 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan and sets up a communist regime loyal to Moscow. Backed by the West, anti-communist mujahedin fighters launch a guerrilla war against the Russian troops. The Saudi Osama bin Laden fights on the side of the mujahedin. <em>Young supporters of the Afghan communist regime march through the streets of the capital Kabul 28 April 1979.</em>

  • 1988-1989

    The Soviet Union withdraws its troops from Afghanistan in 1988 with the last Russian soldiers leaving the country in 1989. For almost ten years, Moscow maintains over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. <em>Red Army soldiers wait in front of their plane to leave for Soviet Union at the Kabul airport 13 February 1989 during Soviet Army withdrawal from Afghanistan. </em>

  • 1992-1994

    In 1992, mujahedin fighters remove the communist government of President Mohammad Najibullah. Years of fighting among the different mujahadin factions follow. <em>A man lifts burnt carpets out of the ashes 28 April 1992 in a street in the Afghan capital one day after fierce fighting between rival mujahedeen factions devastated a number of areas in the city.</em>

  • 1994

    Mullah Mohammad Omar, a radical Islamist cleric, founds the Taliban, or "students." The Taliban capture Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar in 1994. It remains the group's bastion for years. <em>An Afghan from the militant Taliban movement walks by three Russian-made 16-barell Uragan ('Hurricane') rocket launchers, part of the massive arsenal of heavy weapons they have collected at Charasyab base, 16 miles southeast of Kabul 25 February. </em>

  • In September 1996, the Taliban advance on Kabul. The group captures the capital, drives out the forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud, and executes former president Najibullah. Different mujahedin factions united against the Taliban. Also in 1996, Osama bin Laden returns to Afghanistan. <em>A line of tanks belonging to the Taliban militia at Jabul Seraj, some 48 miles north of Kabul, move towards the Salang frontline 09 October. </em>

  • 1999

    The UN imposes an air and arms embargo on the Taliban for as long as the group refuses to hand over Osama bin Laden. <em>A religious protester holds a portrait of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden during a protest rally against the United States 30 July 1999 in Islamabad. </em>

  • 2000

    The Taliban blow up 2,000-year-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan. <em>A December 1997 file photo shows residents of Bamiyan province in Afghanistan walking past the world's tallest standing Buddha statue. </em>

  • 2001

    Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, is killed in a suicide attack. Two men with fake Belgian passports pose as journalists and detonate a bomb while interviewing the military leader. <em>In this picture taken 28 June 2001,Afghan opposition's veteran military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud smiles during an interview with an AFP journalist.</em>

  • September 2001

    After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States demands the extradition of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan. Taliban leader Mullah Omar refuses. The Northern Alliance starts attacking Taliban holdouts later that month.

  • October 2001

    American and British planes bomb Afghanistan. <em>An F-14A 'Tomcat' Fighter Aircraft Refuels From An S-3B 'Viking' During Flight Operations October 5, 2001 From Aboard The Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise. </em>

  • November 2003

    The Taliban flee Kabul and the Northern Alliance takes control of the city. Taliban fighters flee en masse to the mountains and to neighboring country Pakistan. In December 2001, Hamid Karzai is chosen to lead the new interim Afghan government during an international peace conference in Bonn. <em> Afghan interim leader designate Hamid Karzai answers media in front of the former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah's residence in Rome, 18 December 2001.</em>

  • January 2002

    The Taliban capitulates. <em>Local Afghans look on with curiosity at visiting U.S. Navy SEALs who are in their village for a Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) mission to find suspected al Qaeda and Taliban forces January 2002.</em>

  • 2005

    After continuing attacks since 2002, the Taliban regroups and regains strength. In the coming years, the group continues to launch attacks against foreign troops. <em>Burqa clad Afghan women walk past a wall covered with posters featuring images of Afghan election candidates in Kabul, 11 August 2005.</em>

  • August 2006

    NATO troops take over command in Afghanistan. Suicide bombings and attacks against international troops rage on. <em>NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (R) addresses men from 16 Air Assault Brigade, 216 Signal Squadron and 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment inside the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in central London, 19 October 2006. </em>

  • The Taliban take 23 Koreans hostage and demand a prisoner swap. One Korean is killed, the others are released. <em>Che Chang-Hee (R), one of 19 released South Korean hostages, previously held in Afghanistan, reunites with his family at a hospital in Anyang, south of Seoul, 02 September 2007.</em>

  • March 2009

    American President Obama says he is willing to negotiate with "moderate" elements within the Taliban. <em>Barack Obama with Hamid Karzai in May 2009. </em>

  • July 2009

    Afghan and American troops launch a major campaign against the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand. <em>File photo showing British troops in the Helmand Valley in 2007. </em>

  • September 2011

    A Taliban suicide bomber kills former Afghan president Burhanudin Rabbani in his home. <em>Afghan onlookers stand next to a banner featuring an image of the slain former president Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul on September 21, 2011. </em>

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Filed by Nausheen Husain  |