Pakistani family sentenced to death over honour killing outside court

LAHORE (Reuters) - Four relatives of a pregnant woman who bludgeoned her to death outside one of Pakistan's top courts were sentenced to death on Wednesday for the crime, their defence 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 US$1,000 (S$1,250) fine, said defence lawyer Mansoor Afridi. Another cousin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and also fined US$1,000.

Pakistan currently 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.

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.

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 "honour 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.