Police Error Forces Plea Bargain in 'Honor Killing'

A so-called "family honor" killing that the murderers had confessed and even reenacted nevertheless ended in a plea bargain yesterday, due to an error by the police and prosecution.

Under the deal, brothers Mohammed, Salameh, Ahmed and Suleiman Abu Ghanem were convicted of manslaughter rather than murder, and the first three were sentenced to 20 years in prison. Suleiman, who supplied the sedative that the others used to drug their victim but was not present at the murder, was sentenced to 12 years.

Nevertheless, the brothers' female relatives said they were relieved that at least some kind of conviction had been achieved: Most family honor killings are never solved.

"They, like all the other men, need to know that they are not God," said one. "They cannot decide whether a person lives or dies."

The brothers were charged with strangling their sister Rim, then 19, in March 2006. She was the eighth woman in her family to be killed over "family honor" in the last six years - in her case, because she refused to marry the man her brothers chose and instead ran away with her lover.

Mohammed and Salameh later confessed to the murder and even reenacted it.

However, the police and prosecution accidentally gave the defense attorneys a tape that revealed the name of the police informant who secured the confession. The attorneys then located someone who, they claimed, had heard the informant admit to drugging Salameh to get him to confess.

Thus, had the trial continued, the informant would have had to testify regarding this claim, and his identity would have been publicly revealed. The prosecution therefore decided that to protect him, it would instead sign a plea bargain.