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Yemen: Mother executed with her children’s approval

By: Kawkab Al-Thaibani For the Yemen Times


SANA’A, April 22 — Seven children went with their grandfather on Sunday to the Central Prison in Sana’a where their mother Aisha Al-Hamzi had been held for seven years. They went to give their approval for her execution by firing squad.


Aisha Al-Hamzi was charged with killing her husband, Yahya Al-Sharif, in 2002. She said she did it because he was abusing their daughter.


Two of her children watched the execution while the rest stayed in the car, in the prison’s yard. She had four girls and three boys aged between eight and 25. Her little girls put their fingers in their ears as the four bullets were shot into their mother’s body ending her life.


Yemen Times called the number of Abdullah al-Sharif, her eldest son. He was angry at the media. “We insist on her death because of the press who ruined our reputation,” he said. “If our demands were not just, the execution would not have taken place.”


Despite pleas by international organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International to Yemen’s officials to stop the execution, it was carried out. A letter was sent from HRW to President Ali Abdullah Saleh urging him to stop Aisha’s execution a few days before it happened. The letter indicated that the legal proceedings in Aisha’s trial were seriously flawed.


Al-Hamzi had been awaiting her death since 2003 when the Primary Court of the South East of Sana’a passed the verdict of death sentence in 2003. The verdict was ratified by the Appellate Court in 2007. The Supreme Court approved the previous sentences.


Aisha alleged that the murder was in self-defence that whereas her children and her husband’s family claimed that she killed their father because he intended to marry another woman.


Her seven children are the plaintiffs, and they refused to drop the case or to pardon their mother. They insisted on her death because she “ruined their reputation” when she claimed that their father was an abuser. In her will, Aisha donated a quarter of her wealth for charitable acts, and some cash to her cousins because they tried to help her in her case.


Aisha claimed that the father was abusing the daughter at the time of the crime. They argued and, in the heat of the moment, Aisha picked up a rifle which was ready to shoot, and killed the father. Her daughter confessed to being abused by her father, according to the preliminary investigation, but she later withdrew her statements.


According to the defence team from HOOD, a Yemeni human rights organization, the legal procedures questioned whether there had been sufficient legal defence at the beginning of the case, as the dead body of the husband was buried immediately the next day without being subject to autopsy to verify Aisha’s allegations. Furthermore, she received poor defence, as the lawyer was appointed by the court at the primary stage and reported to be absent during the court sessions.


Legally, no one has the right to pardon Al-Hamzi except her children and her father in law. Even the President of Yemen is not entitled to issue pardon in personal cases.


In Islamic Sharia, and thus the Yemeni law, the murderer should be killed when the relatives of the murdered demand it, although it is urged and preferable to give pardon. The people who are entitled to seek the death penalty are the children and parents of the murderer, and it is enough if one of them pardons the killer for the death sentence to be dropped.


Abdul-Rahman Barman, one of her defence lawyers and a member of HOOD, said that Aisha’s case is not the first in which a mother is sentenced to death by their own children. He knew of four similar cases in which children had demanded the death of their mother.


He said he supported her case both because she had poor legal defence and to advocate for the concept of pardon for a woman. Usually, only men are pardoned.


Fouad Dahaba, an MP and Islamic speaker, said that he was willing to intervene to help for conciliation.


He stressed that, although the concept of claiming execution is present in Islam, pardon is urged. “The Holy Quran says, ‘The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.’”


Dahaba added that Yemeni society tends to make women responsible for all the mistakes in the country: “Calling for death to women when men are pardoned is an indication of foolish traditions.”


Barman said there is gender-based discrimination when it comes to dispensing the death penalty in Yemen. He cited a number of cases in which the family forced the children to ask for their mother’s death, when the total opposite would have happened, had it come to the father.


Tribal pressure in seeking the death penalty for women can limit the chances of pardon. Barman added: “I am sure that, if Aisha were the father, she would have been pardoned.”

Source: Yemen Times