Relatives Get 10 Years in Prison for Kidnapping, Murdering 19-year-old in Southern Israel

Hanan al-Bahiri, of the Bedouin town of Lakiya, was killed and burnt by family members after she divorced her husband

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The trial at the Be'er Sheva District Court in southern Israel, in 2017.
The trial at the Be'er Sheva District Court in southern Israel, in 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Two men who aided the 2017 murder of their 19-year-old niece were sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

47-year-old Younes al-Bahiri, and his younger brother, 28-year-old Sager, confessed to aiding in the crime. The Be'er Sheva District Court also handed them a year and a half of suspended sentence, and they will be required to pay 300,000 shekels ($87,000) in compensation to the victim's mother, Dalal.

Hanan al-Bahiri, 19, who was murdered in May 2017. Credit: Courtesy of the al-Bahiri family

19-year-old Hanan al-Bahiri, a resident of the Bedouin town of Lakiya, was kidnapped and murdered by her family members after she and her husband, who was disabled, divorced. The killers also burnt her body.

Her cousin, Younes’ son Mahmad al-Bahiri, confessed to the murder and had been sentenced to life imprisonment in June.

Dalal al-Bahiri (left), whose 19-year-old daughter was murdered in May 2017, Lakiya, June 18, 2017.Credit: Almog Ben Zikri

Dalal, the victim's mother, told the court on Wednesday that she and her children were suffering threats because she cooperated with the police investigation. “The lives of my children have been ruined," she said, "They beat me, threw rocks at my house.... My children are receiving psychological and psychiatric treatment. No one is taking care of them, there is no one to help them.”

The mother says Hanan had never met her husband before the wedding and her uncle, one of the men charged in the killing, had arranged it for her. Hanan was forced to return the dowry her uncle had paid, and to do so she found a job. The indictment stated that the men "feared" she would start dating again.

The perpetrators were also accused of breaking Hanan’s neck, burning her body and burying the remains near their home. According to the indictment, the victim was out walking late at night on May 3, 2017 in Lakiya, in the northern Negev. In a telephone call with her mother, she said she was near the local council building on her way home, but never arrived.

The men kidnapped her on the path to her house, took her in their car and drove for 40 minutes to one of their homes as she screamed for help. After killing her, they removed the SIM card from her phone, broke it and threw it away so she could not be located.

The plea bargain agreement was reached because of problems with the evidence that arose during the trial, and after a criminal mediation process in the District Court. Officials in the State Prosecutor’s Office believed that the dominant figure in the murder was Younes, the uncle, who broke Hanan’s neck according to the indictment. He implicated Sager and Mahmad in his court testimony, distancing himself from the murder.

The three judges wrote in their verdict in June that the “facts described are difficult to write, read and understand. This is a shocking and brutal murder based on what is called, for some reason, ‘family honor.’” The judges wrote about the so-called honor killings: "It isn't an honor, but a shame that human beings act this way in the 21st century… A young woman's life was sacrificed to an ancient, cruel and inhumane tradition, only because she had the courage to defy what the patriarchal regime dictates, what her male relatives dictate."

The judges said that we cannot accept such actions and they must be fought with all the means available to law enforcement. “This is an uncompromising, difficult war whose success is not guaranteed, but a civilized society cannot allow itself to surrender.”

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