The Lahore High Court on Wednesday sentenced four men to death for the murder of a pregnant woman bludgeoned to death in the center of the country’s second-largest city for marrying against her family’s wishes, lawyers said.
A mob of more than two-dozen, among them numerous relatives including the victim’s father and brother, battered Farzana Iqbal to death with bricks outside the High Court in May.
While “honor” killings are commonplace in parts of Pakistan, the brutal and brazen nature of Iqbal’s killing meant the case made headlines around the world. “The court today awarded death sentences to four accused—the father, brother, cousin and ex-husband of the victim for murder and terrorism,” said prosecutor Rai Asif Mehmood.
Mehmood said the sentences were handed down for three counts—murder, terrorism and the killing of an unborn baby—and the court had also fined each defendant Rs. 100,000. The fifth accused in the case, a cousin of Iqbal, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, Mehmood said.
Though Pakistan has the death penalty for several crimes, there has been a de facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008.
Defense lawyer Mansoor Rehman Afridi said his clients would appeal the sentences. “My clients will appeal against their sentences as we believe that the case had been poiticized and the media coverage mounted pressure on us,” said Afridi.
The killing sparked international outrage, with the United States branding the incident “heinous” and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demanding action to catch the killers.
Hundreds of Pakistani women are murdered each year by relatives, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, ostensibly on the grounds of defending family “honor.” But Pakistan’s blood-money laws allow a victim’s family to forgive the murderer, which makes prosecuting so-called “honor” cases difficult because the killer is usually a relative.
The husband of the murdered woman, Mohammad Iqbal, admitted he had strangled his first wife out of love for Farzana. He was spared jail for his first wife’s murder because his sons persuaded her family to pardon him under the blood-money laws.