A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam's holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan's top criminal investigator said on Sunday.
Mobile phone footage circulating on social media appears to show that police were at the scene but did not intervene as the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul in broad daylight on Thursday.
"Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burnt the Holy Quran," Gen. Mohammad Zahir told reporters at her funeral on Sunday. "Farkhunda was totally innocent."
The top criminal investigator promised to punish all those involved. He said that 13 people, including eight police officers, had already been arrested.
Hundreds of people attended her funeral on Sunday chanting, "We want justice." Women’s rights activists, dressed head-to-toe in black, broke with tradition to carry her coffin.
President Ashraf Ghani, now in Washington on his first state visit to the United States since taking office in September, condemned the killing as a "heinous attack" and ordered an investigation.
Following allegations that police stood by and did nothing to stop the killing, Ghani told reporters before leaving for the U.S. that the incident revealed "a fundamental issue”—that security forces are too focused on the fight against the Taliban insurgency to provide security to ordinary citizens.
Farkhunda was a teacher of Islamic studies, according to her brother, who denied media reports that she had been mentally ill. He said this was a made-up defense by their father, who wanted to protect the family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.
"My father was frightened and made the false statement to calm people down," said Najibullah, who is changing his second name to Farkhunda in memory of his sister.
The killing drew praise from some, including a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their beliefs at all costs.
Under the strict rule of the Taliban, women could neither attend school nor were they allowed to work, and they were forbidden from leaving the house without a male guardian.
The last decade has seen progress: Millions of girls now attend school and women can enter employment, particularly in major cities. But in some rural areas, little has changed.