Afghan President Hamid Karzai received a petition Sunday with nearly 5,000 names endorsing a plea for the immediate release of a rape victim who has been jailed because of her attack and is being forced to marry her rapist.
Kim Motley, a lawyer for 21-year-old Gulnaz, said the palace received the petition, which gathered 4,751 names in just over 48 hours, on Sunday afternoon. The petition comes with an official plea for clemency addressed to the president, who has the power to immediately pardon Gulnaz, currently in jail for adultery because her attacker was married at the time of the attack.
Gulnaz was sentenced to 12 years after the attack as her rapist was married though that term was recently reduced to three years.
Gulnaz's plight gained international attention when the European Union blocked the broadcast of a documentary made about her ordeal saying that it would further jeopardize her safety.
Gulnaz was raped two years ago by her cousin's husband but did not immediately report the attack, fearing reprisals from elements of Afghanistan's conservative society. Yet she conceived a child from the rape, and went to police after showing signs of pregnancy. She is now raising the daughter in jail and has agreed to marry her attacker in order to be released and legitimize her daughter. She also fears attack from her rapist's relatives, something he denies is a risk.
A spokesman for the attorney general, Rahmatullah Naziri, told CNN last week that her sentence had been reduced to three years, leaving about a year to serve. He explained that while the original sentence for adultery was reduced, she had failed to report her rape quickly enough and would have to serve further time in jail for that offense.
The U.S. State Department, while not explicitly calling for Gulnaz's release, said in a statement Thursday: "Gulnaz's situation is one no woman should have to face. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Gulnaz and her young daughter. We expect Afghan prosecutors to properly apply the law while also upholding Gulnaz's rights."