Si­lence and con­cern sur­round Gaza woman’s death sen­tence

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The 26-year-old woman fac­ing a death sen­tence in Gaza was con­victed of killing her hus­band-but her trial was se­cret and even her fam­ily has dis­tanced them­selves pub­licly from the case. Her death sen­tence, the first for a Pales­tinian woman in more than 20 years, has raised con­cerns among rights ac­tivists in the Gaza Strip, the small en­clave run by Is­lamist move­ment Ha­mas. They are try­ing to pre­vent her death by hang­ing, while nav­i­gat­ing tra­di­tional val­ues and Ha­mas’s strict rule in the ter­ri­tory, hit by three wars with Is­rael since 2008 and un­der an Is­raeli block­ade for a decade. A wall of si­lence has also sur­rounded the case.

The fam­ily of the woman, iden­ti­fied only as Nahla A., de­clined to pro­vide her with a lawyer, said Zeinab AlGhounimi of the Cen­tre for Women’s Le­gal Re­search and Con­sult­ing. “They were afraid of re­venge from the hus­band’s fam­ily,” she said, ex­plain­ing that her or­ga­ni­za­tion had stepped in and helped. Her lawyer, Bakr Tork­mani, said the woman is the mother of a young boy and had been mar­ried against her will. She lived in com­plete des­ti­tu­tion and was re­peat­edly beaten by her hus­band, he said. He hopes “pub­lic opin­ion and me­dia re­ports will have an im­pact on the judges af­ter the haste they showed in hand­ing out this death sen­tence.”

Stabbed in the back?

The woman was ar­rested on Jan­uary 31, and Gaza’s at­tor­ney gen­eral Is­mail Jaber has pro­vided an out­line of what is al­leged to have hap­pened. Sev­eral days be­fore her ar­rest, she had asked her hus­band out for some fresh air near their small home in a poor district of Khan Yu­nis in the south­ern Gaza Strip, he said. They trav­elled a short dis­tance by don­key cart be­fore her hus­band “wanted to re­lieve him­self,” Jaber told AFP in his spa­cious of­fice clut­tered with files. She is then ac­cused of pulling out the knife she bought sev­eral days ear­lier and “stab­bing him in the back sev­eral times,” he said.

Author­i­ties say she con­fessed and that other tes­ti­mony showed that the killing was pre­med­i­tated. She was con­victed then sen­tenced on Oc­to­ber 5 af­ter a trial held be­hind closed doors. “Once all pro­ce­dural steps have been com­pleted, we will sign off on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the sen­tence,” Jaber said. She is the first woman to be sen­tenced to death in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries since 1994, said Hamdi Shaqura of the Pales­tinian Cen­tre for Hu­man Rights. “There is still the pos­si­bil­ity of an ap­peal and we are plac­ing our hopes in fu­ture rul­ings,” he said.

Nahla’s case has also high­lighted rights groups’ con­cerns over the con­tin­ued use of the death penalty in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries-and es­pe­cially re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the Gaza Strip. In May, Jaber an­nounced that a num­ber of death sen­tences would soon be car­ried out in crim­i­nal cases. Later that month, three Pales­tinian men were ex­e­cuted for mur­der in the strip, draw­ing con­dem­na­tion from the UN. Jaber said at the time that the ex­e­cu­tions were car­ried out as a de­ter­rence and to re­duce crime. Rights ac­tivists say there is a lack of trans­parency sur­round­ing such cases and point out there is no ev­i­dence the death penalty is more ef­fec­tive in de­ter­ring crime than prison.

Son’s visit re­fused

Un­der Pales­tinian law, death sen­tences can be handed out for those col­lab­o­rat­ing with Is­rael, mur­der­ers and drug traf­fick­ers. But there are stark dif­fer­ences be­tween the Gaza Strip and the oc­cu­pied West Bank, the ter­ri­tory con­trolled by the Pales­tinian Author­ity, which is dom­i­nated by pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas’s Fatah party. No ex­e­cu­tion has been car­ried out in the West Bank since 2002, while only two were car­ried out there be­tween 1994 and 2002. In Gaza, 33 peo­ple have been ex­e­cuted since 1994. Since Ha­mas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, 96 death penal­ties have been handed out, mostly by mil­i­tary courts and of­ten for spy­ing on be­half of Is­rael, said Shaqura. — AFP

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