Pakistani men held in Belgium in suspected honour killing

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Two Pakistani brothers were being held in custody in Belgium on murder charges, a magistrate said Friday, on suspicion that they carried out an honour killing.

Brussels - Hammad Raza Syed and his brother Hassan were charged with "deprivation of liberty and murder" over the death of Hammad's wife Claudi Lalembaidje, a 32-year-old Belgian woman of Chadian origin.

The woman's beaten body was found on June 29 in a suitcase in a canal in northern France. A funeral service was held for her in Brussels on Friday.

The magistrate said the two men had denied the killing, and that a third brother was believed to have fled Belgium, possibly to Pakistan, and was the subject of an international arrest warrant.

The dead woman was in the process of divorcing Syed. Her family claimed he had beaten her and wanted to control what she wore and how she conducted her life. She went to police twice insisting he had tried to strangle her.

"Claudia had the impression that she was being used in a fake marriage, that Ali (Hammad) was using her to get residency papers in Belgium," her mother, Kadidja Kade told Le Soir newspaper.

Kade said the husband disappeared for a few weeks, so her daughter established legally that he had abandoned their home in Namur, southern Belgium.

She won custody of their child, born last September, and returned to Brussels.

On his return from Pakistan, the mother said, Syed harassed her with his two brothers and demanded that she drop the divorce proceedings, threatening to kill her.

"He said that in Pakistan, marriage is for life until death," Kade said.

Statistics compiled by the Aurat Foundation, an independent women's rights group, show that last year there were 550 victims of honour killings across Pakistan.

Human rights groups say Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called honour killings, and are increasingly isolated by spreading Islamist fundamentalism.

Amnesty International says many killings go unreported and in almost all cases the perpetrators, who are often close family members, are not punished.

In 2005, Pakistan's then president Pervez Musharraf introduced the death penalty for honour killings.


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