Pakistani family sentenced to death for ‘honour killing’

Four men who  bludgeoned pregnant relative Farzana Iqbal to death outside one of Pakistan’s top courts were sentenced to death on Wednesday for the crime, according to their defence lawyer.

The 25-year-old’s family attacked her because they objected to her marriage. 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 sentenced to death and a $1 000 fine, said lawyer Mansoor Afridi. Another cousin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 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”.

The state prosecutor was not immediately available for comment.

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

But Iqbal’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.

Iqbal later admitted 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.

As Pakistani women are often killed by close relations, the loophole allows thousands of murderers to escape punishment.

In 2013, 869 cases of “honour killings” were reported in the media, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The true figure is probably higher as many cases go unreported. – Reuters

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Katharine Houreld
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