ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday ordered five men accused of gang-raping a woman on the orders of a tribal council to be detained and retried.
The ruling came after victim Mukhtaran Mai, 33, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to prevent the release of the five, who had been ordered to be set free this month by another court that had reversed their earlier conviction.
The three-member panel of the Supreme Court issued warrants for the detention of the five men without bail and ordered their retrial before the high court at a date to be announced later. All five were already in custody before the decision.
"The inspector general of police [in Punjab province] is directed to cause their arrest and keep them in judicial custody until final disposal of these appeals," the court ordered. "They shall be treated as under-trial prisoners."
The court also called for the arrest and trial of eight other people who were initially accused of ordering the rape in 2002 as retribution for an alleged affair between Mai's 12-year-old brother and a woman from a prominent clan.
The eight were acquitted and released by a lower court in 2002.
The high court's order Tuesday brought relief to Mai, whose public campaign for justice provoked an international outcry about the treatment of women in rural Pakistan, many parts of which are still under the sway of feudal and tribal laws.
"I am very happy and satisfied," she told reporters after the ruling. "I hope to get justice from the court."
Her attorney, Aitzaz Ahsan, asked the court to review the tribal council system, which he said sheltered people who commit violence against women.
In 2002, a lower court imposed the death penalty on six men convicted of raping Mai, while acquitting the eight others.
The decision was followed by a back-and-forth legal battle between various courts, with jurists in the Punjab city of Lahore overturning the convictions of five of the men and reducing the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison in March of this year.
The Supreme Court stepped in after the nation's Islamic court suspended the Lahore decision.