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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Amman 'honour killer' gets one year
A man from Amman has been sentenced to a one year prison term for strangling to death a sister who had become pregnant out of wedlock, the Jordan Times has reported.

In a case seen as highlighting the continually lenient punishments meted out for so-called honour killings, the 20-year-old was found guilty of a "misdemeanour" committed in a "fit of rage" rather than premeditated murder.

According to the court transcript, the man's sister had become pregnant after allegedly being raped by a neighbour, whom her family subsequently decided she must marry.

But news of the illegitimate pregnancy leaked in the neighbourhood, and the man, who was away on business in the town of Aqaba at the time, said he returned to taunts that he was the "brother of a slut".

The morning after his return, he crept into his sister's room and strangled her with a telephone cord, in what the court described as a "fit of rage".

"The victim's actions were an unlawful and dangerous act that brought disgrace and shame to her family," read the court's ruling, quoted by the newspaper. "He could no longer control himself and became very angry."

"It does not matter that the defendant killed his sister hours after returning from Aqaba. He was still under the influence of extreme anger, which caused him to lose his ability because of the unlawful act committed by his sister."

'Fits of rage'

Although the Jordanian Government amended the penal code 18 months ago to scrap impunity for men who carry out honour killings, women's rights groups say in practice it has made little impact, noting that the number of killings has stayed constant.

Those found guilty of such killings rarely receive sentences longer than one year, and many serve terms of one month.

This is explained in part by legislation which reduces sentences for crimes committed in a "fit of rage" sparked by an "unlawful action" on the part of the victim.

These articles were not included in the government's amendments, but are frequently used by judges when dealing with honour killings.

According to the Jordan Times, actions such as leaving the family home for a period or uttering words such as "This is my life. I am free to do as I choose" were all considered unlawful acts in verdicts on honour killings issued last year.

The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 women per year are victims of honour killings. Many murders are thought to go unreported.

Most of these killings occur in Muslim countries.

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