Israeli Arab Jailed for 16 Years Over 'Honor Killing' of His Sister

Victim's female relatives speak out against killers in rare defiance; Kamil Abu Ghanem was shot while sleeping in Ramle.

A Tel Aviv court has sentenced an Israeli Arab man to 16 years in prison for involvement in the murder of his sister in an "honor killing," after several female relatives took the rare step of testifying against him, according to court documents.

Hamda Abu Ghanem was the ninth woman killed in the clan in recent years by men in the family. She was shot in January last year as she slept at her parents' home in a Muslim neighborhood of Ramle, a mixed Jewish-Arab town of 65,000 in central Israel.

Honor killings refer to murder of women by relatives for allegedly sullying the good name of the family, usually because of sexual misdeeds.

Incriminating evidence against the brother, Kamil Abu Ghanem, included an account by an aunt who said she saw him enter the family home, heard shots, and then saw him flee the area. Gunpowder was also found on the clothes he wore that day, according to the documents.

The aunt's identity has not been made public over fear for her safety. Although she had given a statement to police, the aunt disappeared before she could be brought to testify.

In a plea bargain approved by the Tel Aviv District Court this week, Abu Ghanem was convicted of being an accessory to a murder, maintaining that he only let someone else into the building to kill his sister, said his lawyer, Giora Zilbershtein.

The mother and another sister were among those who testified against Abu Ghanem.

"I am the mother of a murdered woman and her murderer," the mother, Imameh, told an Arabic-language newspaper.

The clan is well known in Ramle. One cousin, Reem, was drugged by a brother and thrown in a well after refusing to marry the man her family chose, relatives said.

Reem's mother, Nayfa, was stabbed to death. Another woman slipped in the bathroom and died of her injuries. Others were gunned down or stabbed to death.

Activists for Arab women's rights accused Israeli police of not doing enough to stop the honor killings, saying they accepted the murders as a part of Muslim culture. Only Kamil Abu Ghanem and one other man have been convicted in the nine Abu Ghanem murders that have taken place over the past 11 years. Police say the clan destroyed evidence and lied to protect the killers.

Hamda's older sister, Sahar, is one of the relatives who have begun speaking out at the risk of her own life. She fled to a secret location with her six children days after Hamda died.

"I want to break this wall of silence, I want to stop honor killings," Sahar said by telephone a few months ago. "Hamda died for nothing. She was honorable. The people who killed her have no honor."