March 24, 2015 / 12:23 PM / 2 years ago

Afghan police official fired for mob-killing Facebook comment

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's interior ministry fired the spokesman for Kabul's police chief on Tuesday for Facebook comments that seemed to try to justify the mob killing of a 27-year-old woman falsely accused of burning a Koran.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in the capital on Tuesday for a second day to denounce police for allowing a crowd to beat the woman to death with planks.

The woman, named Farkhunda, was killed and set on fire last week in front of police officers after she was accused of burning a Koran, Islam's holy book.

Her death has triggered a public outcry in a country where mass demonstrations of support for women's rights are rare.

Protesters in Kabul painted their faces red on Tuesday to represent Farkhunda's bloodied face as filmed by mobile phones as she was beaten to death.

"We have come here to register a very deep sense of anger and frustration with the process of reform," said Afghanistan's former spy chief, Amrullah Saleh, who was at the protest.

Interior Minister Noor ul-Haq Olomi said on Tuesday that 20 officers, including the police chief of the district, had been dismissed over the case.

"It is clear there was a failure to carry out police duties," Olomi said in a statement, promising a full investigation and prosecutions if warranted.

Hashmat Stanekzai, the spokesman for Kabul's police chief, was also fired on Tuesday for statements made on his personal Facebook page the day after the killing, Olomi said.

Stanekzai called the woman an "unbeliever" and said people like her hoped to gain U.S. or European citizenship with shows of blasphemy.

Foreign aid donors have spent billions of dollars on Afghanistan's police force and trying to entrench the rule of law and many are frustrated at a persistent culture of impunity and abuse among the security forces.

The country's top investigator has said there is no evidence Farkhunda burned the Koran.

Her brother says a cleric made the accusation at his mosque after Farkhunda told a woman not to pay for good-luck amulets because they were un-Islamic.

The president has ordered an inquiry into her killing and Olomi said 28 people have been arrested for participating in the mob attack.

More than a dozen years after the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime that routinely executed people for violating their interpretation of Islamic law, Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative nation. Some Afghans - including a mullah in Kabul - expressed approval for last week's killing.

Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Jeremy Laurence/Ruth Pitchford

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