‘Honour killing’ woman’s family sentenced to death

Four relatives of a pregnant woman who bludgeoned her to death outside one of Pakistan’s top courts were sentenced to death for the crime, their lawyer said.

The 25-year-old’s family attacked her because they objected to her marriage. Farzana Iqbal’s murder in May this year briefly focused attention on Pakistan’s epidemic of violence against women.

Her father, brother, cousin, and another relative were all sentenced to death and a $1,000 (€800) fine, said defence lawyer Mansoor Afridi. Another cousin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and also fined $1,000.

Pakistan has a moratorium on executions, meaning death row prisoners are effectively sentenced to life imprisonment.

But Afridi said the family planned to appeal. He said the verdict was “a decision based on sensationalism”.

“My clients will appeal against their sentences as we believe that the case had been politicised and the media coverage mounted pressure on us,” Afridi said.

The killing sparked outrage, with the United States branding the incident “heinous” and Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, demanding action to catch the killers.

Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year on the grounds of defending family “honour”.

The state prosecutor was not immediately available for comment.

Women are murdered every day in Pakistan for perceived slights against conservative social traditions. The crime is so common it rarely rates more than a paragraph in newspapers.

But Farzana’s case attracted attention because it took place on a busy street outside the provincial High Court where she had gone to seek protection.

Her family beat her to death with bricks while her husband, Muhammed Iqbal, begged nearby police for help. They did not intervene.

Senior officers defended their men, saying the mob was too large to be stopped and trying to play down the killing as a “routine murder”.

Iqbal later admitted that he had murdered his first wife to marry Farzana. He escaped punishment because his son forgave him.

According to Pakistani law, a woman’s next of kin can forgive her murderers.

Since Pakistani women are often killed by their close relations, the loophole allows thousands of murderers to escape without punishment.

In 2013, 869 cases of so-called “honor killings” were reported in the media, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The true figure is probably higher since many cases go unreported.


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