A Pakistani judge and his wife jailed for torturing their 10-year-old maid have had their sentences slashed.
Judge Raja Khurram Ali and his wife, Maheen Zafar, were both serving three-year sentences after the girl was found with multiple injuries back in 2016.
The case horrified Pakistan, where pictures of the girl went viral.
But the Supreme Court has now cut the couple’s sentences to a year – meaning they could soon walk free. Prosecutors are appealing against the reduction.
The judge and his wife were initially sentenced to 12 months in jail after being found guilty in April 2018. That was then increased to three years by the Islamabad High Court in June 2018, following an appeal by prosecutors.
At the time, judges said the couple were “not worthy of any sympathy” because “they deliberately and consciously made an innocent and helpless child to suffer tremendously”.
The girl, named only as Tayyaba, had been sent to work for the judge and his wife in the capital, Islamabad, by her family, who were struggling to make ends meet after her father lost a finger. She was one of an estimated 12 million child workers in the country.
Children are not legally allowed to work in most businesses in Pakistan, but in the vast majority of the country, there is no law banning them from working inside homes.
Tayyaba had worked at the house for two years when neighbours alerted police. The girl was found with severe injuries, which the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science said included burns to her hands and feet.
Pictures of the girl, then 10, also showed cuts and bruising to her face, along with a swollen left eye. She told prosecutors she was beaten for losing a broom.
Ali – who has been struck off as a judge – and Zafar always denied all allegations.
However, they did reach an agreement with the family in January 2017. It is not clear exactly what this comprised of, but afterwards, her father tried to get the court to drop the charges against the judge and his wife. They have also never called for the sentence to be increased.
Under Pakistani law, victims or their families have the right to forgive suspects in a number of serious crimes. To do so, they have to state in court that they forgive a suspect “in the name of God”.
In reality, legal observers agree that the primary motive for that “forgiveness” is normally financial, and the informal payment of money to victims is not illegal.
On this occasion, however, the family were told the crime did not allow them to withdraw charges.
Tayyaba, meanwhile, has never been returned to her parents, who live in a village outside the city of Faisalabad, about four hours’ drive south from Islamabad.
Instead, she is being cared for in an orphanage and attending school. She told the BBC in 2018 that she now dreamed of becoming a teacher.