Trial ongoing for man who killed his daughter
The reason: He believed his daughter was no longer a virgin.
Daughters being killed for so-called “dishonorable” behavior—whether it actually happened or not—is not unheard of in Yemen. According to the deputy director of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior, Mohammad Hizam, “Girls being killed by their families comes as a result of rape, online messaging, befriending boys, being sexually harassed by their own fathers, or as a result of grudges between the parents after they are divorced.”
While the Interior Ministry does not have statistics regarding such incidents, Hizam said he knows of “dozens of similar cases.” Furthermore, the head of the Family Protection Department in the Ministry of Interior, Brigadier Suad Al-Qa’tabi, told the Yemen Times that no father has been sentenced to death for killing his daughter so far. The reason, she said, is fathers’ alleged defense of honor which usually results in the lesser penalty of imprisonment.
Public pressure for a swift trial
The murder of Maab by her father is unique, according to Hezam, in that it was unusually cruel and grabbed the attention—and captured the anger—of the public.
Similar cases of children being killed by their families usually proceed slowly, if at all. And if they do not get lost somewhere along the way in the country’s disorganized, if not dysfunctional, legal system, the verdict tends to be lenient.
Colonel Muhammad Ali Al-Haddi, the director of the Dhamar Criminal Investigations Bureau, told the Yemen Times that court proceedings would have taken “a very long time” had protests by local residents not expedited the case.
Demonstrations were triggered in Dhamar by photos of Maab’s mutilated corpse, which surfaced online and indicated that the girl had been severely tortured before her death. With considerable evidence implicating the girl’s father in the killing, protesters called for Nouh himself to be killed. Since the first protest on Dec. 29, thousands have been gathering every Thursday and Friday to date, demanding capital punishment for the so-called “killer of innocence.”
Nouh was arrested on the morning of Dec. 27, only hours after killing his daughter.
“During the investigation Al-Yemeni willingly confessed to having murdered his daughter,” Al-Haddi said. “We made him think that we had him under surveillance a few days before he killed his daughter and that denying it would do him no good.”
According to Al-Haddi, the perpetrator was transferred to Ibb governorate’s Criminal Investigation Bureau following his confession. The investigation moved slowly as a result of the country’s political crisis, but, in compliance with protesters’ demands, the case was soon transferred from Ibb to the Criminal Investigation Bureau branch in Dhamar.
The undersecretary of the West Dhamar prosecution office, Ahmad Al-Qeiz, told the Yemen Times that the prosecution finished interrogating the victim’s father and referred the suspect to West Dhamar Preliminary Court on Jan. 12. Only two days later, on Jan. 14 the trial began.
According to Al-Qeiz, “In the first trial session, headed by Abdu Al-Hajuri, the prosecution accused the suspect of willfully killing his daughter Maab.” The allegations are haunting, he said. “The indictment read that the accused tortured and beat his daughter for days. He stabbed her and burned her skin using a clothes hanger and an iron. At night he took her to a vacant area in Naqil Sumara, Ibb governorate, and shot her several times with a pistol, killing her instantly. Leaving her body behind, he left.”
Al-Haddi said the court has definitive evidence proving the suspect is guilty: A video of the father conducting various methods of torture on the ten-year-old girl, which left scars all over her body. Al-Haddi also said there is evidence of careful planning by the father to carry out the killing, as demonstrated by his purchasing of a pistol and his travel plans.
Al-Haddi said the culprit is not considered criminally insane.
According to Al-Qeiz, the prosecution has submitted as evidence the murder weapon and projectiles taken from the girls body, as well as the suspect’s cellphone, which contains video clips of the victim while she was being tortured.
The prosecution is demanding the accused be executed in accordance with article 234 of the Penal Code.
Fuad Al-Khazan, who has a law firm in Sana’a, told the Yemen Times that the normal punishment for a father killing his son or daughter is ten years imprisonment. Where torture is involved, as in Maab’s case, the punishment can be life in prison. According to Al-Khazan, the penal code does not permit for a father to be executed for killing his offspring, and with this specific case there is considerable pressure from the public for the father to be punished by death.
Al-Qeiz expects a verdict will be announced within the coming few days because all evidence indicates the suspect is guilty of a “crime against humanity.” The suspect has thus far not hired a lawyer.
What drove Nouh to kill his daughter?
According to Al-Haddi, Nouh suspected that his daughter was practicing prostitution and had her undergo virginity tests at three different hospitals, the last one being the Specialized Motherhood Hospital in Sana’a.
At all three hospitals it was determined that the ten-year-old was still a virgin. Despite these expert opinions, Nough remained unconvinced.
An interview Nouh gave to Marib Press after his arrest is telling of his unstable condition and relationship with his daughter. “I asked my daughter Maab to read the Holy Quran with her two sisters but she refused. She was sitting in the kitchen chatting with her mother on her cellphone, and then she ran into the bathroom. I told her to come out but she refused, then I threatened to kill her myself if she didn’t not come out,” he said. “When she came out I asked her to tell me the truth about whom she was speaking with otherwise I would kill her.”
Nouh is divorced and has three daughters from the marriage, including Maab. His ex-wife, who is from Ibb governorate, remarried and all three children were left in his custody.
When Maab told him she was chatting with her mother, Nouh said he became upset and hit her. “She told me her mother had forced her to stay on the phone by threatening to tell me, her father, that she was having sexual relationships with boys.” Maab went on to say, according to Nouh’s statement, that her mother made her perform sexual acts with other men with the intent of upsetting him. None of Nouh’s claims could be verified by the Yemen Times.
Brigadier Abdulkarim Al-Odaini, the general director of Dhamar governorate’s police, told the Yemen Times that the perpetrator’s accusations do not justify the murder. He said that preliminary examinations indicate the girl was not raped and did not have sexual relations before. In Al-Odaini’s view, Nouh killed his daughter to get back at his wife who divorced him and re-married someone else.
Nabil Al-Khadher, head of the Sana’a-based human rights organization Dhamanat (“Guarantees”), said the judiciary must punish the perpetrator to the full extent of the law, and agrees that capital punishment is suitable for the nature of Nouh’s crime.