Women's rights activists demand justice for domestic violence victims

Human rights groups staged a protest Tuesday outside the Justice Palace in Beirut to demand a retrial in the case of a man who was sentenced to only three years in prison for murdering his wife.
by Georgi Azar

16 August 2016 | 19:20

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 16 August 2016 | 19:20

A file photo of Manal Assi.

BEIRUT: Women's rights activists and human rights groups staged a protest Tuesday outside the Justice Palace in Beirut to demand a retrial in the case of a man who was sentenced to only three years in prison for murdering his wife.

The protest, organized by local NGO KAFA (Arabic for enough), called for justice "for Manal Assi and all women alike."

In February 2014, Manal was brutally murdered by her husband Mohammad al-Nhaily, who was sentenced to five years in prison; however, given the nine-month judicial prison year in Lebanon and time already served, Nhaily is scheduled for release in a little over a year's time.

Manal's mother, Nada Assi, voiced her frustration at the rally, telling reporters: "How can he be released after only 18 months, as if he didn't do anything? This is my daughter."

Following the conviction, Nada dropped her right to legally pursue her daughter's killer, saying that she feared for her children's safety if she did not do so. "I feared for my children's wellbeing. However, I will not remain silent before those who speak badly about my daughter," she added.

The head of the Working Women League in Lebanon, Iqbal Doughan, joined Manal alongside other protesters, echoing their sentiments. "Some men have a level of creativity that permit them to murder women and escape punishment," a statement released by Doughan read.

The heinous crime shocked Lebanon as Manal was ruthlessly bludgeoned with a pressure cooker in front of her two young daughters, according to information released by the ISF at the time.

Nhaily was supposed to be sentenced in accordance with article 549 of the Penal Code which carries the death penalty. However, the judge presiding over the case, Helen Iskandar, indirectly based her verdict on section 562 of article 252 of the Penal Code, which relates to "Honor Killings."

The article, which was abolished by parliament on Aug. 4, 2011, stipulates that if a crime is committed as a result of severe rage brought upon by the victim, then the accused is entitled to a lighter sentence.

The amendment, however, doesn't deny the judge the right to interpret each case individually.

According to media reports, the judge reached her verdict based on the fact that Nhaily intercepted a phone call on his wife's phone on the day of the murder that indicated she was having an extramarital affair for the past five years. Nhaily was also involved in an extramarital relationship that led to a second marriage, two years before the murder took place, the reports indicated. Throughout this time, Nhaily abused Manal and their two young daughters both verbally and physically.

The verdict angered human rights groups including KAFA, who described the sentence as light and have been demanding ever since that the convicted murderer face a much tougher sentence.

Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi announced last week that he had intervened in the case and sent a memo to the Court of Appeals calling on the tribunal to review the decision if it saw legal reason to do so.

This is the latest in a series of domestic violence cases against women in Lebanon. Last week, a 20-year-old woman named Maymouna Ahmad was brutally murdered by her husband in Qleiat.

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