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Death Sentence for Wife-Killer

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Sulaimaniyah court hears how Kurdish man staged “insurgent” attack on his Norwegian wife. By Sirwan Ghareeb in Sulaimaniyah (ICR No. 117, 17-Mar-05)


Three men have been sentenced to death in Sulaimaniyah for the September 2004 murder of a Norwegian woman which was made to look like an insurgent attack.

The court heard that 39-year-old Marita Strom was killed by hitmen hired by her Kurdish husband Faraydoon Latif, who had apparently tired of her liberated western attitudes, which he saw as a “lack of respect” for him.

Strom was travelling by car in Sulaimaniyah with her husband and two of their children when they were ambushed by gunmen. She was shot dead and her five-year-old daughter was slightly injured in the attack.

After the murder, Strom’s three children were taken back to Norway, where they now live with her relatives.

Nine months later, Latif was arrested and charged with hiring two hitmen to carry out the attack.

After pronouncing a guilty verdict on March 10, the head of the trial committee, Judge Farooq Abdul-Wahid, told IWPR, "The murder of the Norwegian woman was carried out by three persons, one of whom was her husband."

Latif, 32, met Strom after he was granted refugee status in Norway in 1995 under the name of Osman Omer Osman. The couple married during their first trip together to Kurdistan in 1999.

According to evidence, Latif came back to Kurdistan in 2004 to plan his wife's murder, arranging it to look like an extremist attack in the hope that the local police would blame insurgents opposed to the presence of United States forces.

Latif paid two men 4,000 US dollars each to kill his wife. One, Aras Ibrahim, told the court, "Latif and I planned the scenario of the murder, but I had second thoughts and said I wouldn't do it."

Ibrahim and Latif then hired a second man, Kamal Jalal Fattah, to pull the trigger.

Fattah told the court that Latif asked him to kill Strom because she did not respect her husband and spent all his money, and admitted that the three men had made two previous attempts on her life. On one occasion, they took her to Kirkuk under the pretext of attending a funeral. They intended to kill her along the way, but aborted the attempt after encountering too many vehicles and passers-by on the road.

The husband denied the charges, claiming that an earlier confession made by him had been extracted under torture.

However, the court found the defendants guilty, noting, "The incident is clear and obvious and the investigations provide the evidence". All three were sentenced to death.

Outside the courthouse after the verdict, Azad Ahmed, Latif's advocate, said, "The court made its decision without taking my defence statement into account. Of course I'll appeal against it."

An appeal was immediately lodged, and Latif also asked the government of Norway to help.

Norwegian foreign ministry official Steven Everson, who came to Kurdistan to monitor the trial, refused to comment on the sentence but told IWPR, "The Norwegian government does not support capital punishment for any criminal."

There have been some calls for the Norwegian foreign ministry to seek Latif’s extradition back to Norway in order to save his life, but his citizenship there is now under review because he provided a false name to the authorities when he originally sought asylum.

But the presiding judge said, "There isn’t anything about this incident that would allow us to be lenient on the three men. It was a deliberate murder, and the punishment is execution [as stipulated by] the Iraqi penal code."

Latif’s laywer told IWPR that no death sentence has actually been carried out in Kurdistan since it gained regional autonomy in 1991. There have been 40 such judgements since then, each of which was commuted to life imprisonment.

Sirwan Ghareeb is an IWPR trainee journalist in Sulaimaniyah.

Created by anita
Last modified 2005-04-24 06:33 AM

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