On 4th June 2014 Ahmed Al-Khatib was found guilty of murdering Rania Alayed, his wife. He was sentenced to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years. His brother, Muhaned Al Khatib, was cleared of murder but sentenced to 3 years for Perverting the Course of Justice which he had previously admitted. This related to the hiding of Ms Alayed’s body.
A third brother, Hussain Al-Khatib, was found guilty of Perverting the Course of Justice and sentenced to 4 years in prison. This also related to the disposal of the body (which has still not been found).
The Prosecution alleged that the motive for the killing was a concern that Ms Alayed was “becoming ‘too Westernised’ for her controlling husband’s liking.” We don’t have the sentencing remarks, so we don’t know whether this was accepted by the Judge.
What we do have from the news reports is the following :
“The judge said that he was sure it was Ahmed’s intention to kill and that his ‘main motive was jealousy’.
“How you killed Rania may never be known but I think it’s likely you strangled or smothered her, your actions after you murdered Rania showed no remorse – you thought she deserved to die”, he added.
The judge went on to say that Ahmed may have had a ‘breakdown’ since his arrest, but there was ‘no doubt at all’ that he had ‘hugely exaggerated’ his symptons and that his courtoom outbursts were ‘deliberately staged’.
“Your ridiculous claim that when you killed Rania you were acting in self-defence after seeing her turn into a devil trying to strangle you was a further insult to her memory and the jury’s intelligence.”
The sentence ‘feels’ right given the facts. Looking at the aggravating features, the main one is the disposal of the body. There don’t appear to be any mitigating features (bar possibly his mental health, although the Judge wasn’t too impressed by that). The fact that he was intending to kill his wife is not an aggravating feature and there is a bit of concern about the Judge comments about the ‘ridiculous claim’ that Mr Ahmed put forward. A defendant should not be penalised for having a trial.
So, looking at it that way, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was an appeal. A tariff of 17-18 would not have been one that could be criticised, but I doubt that the Court of Appeal would interfere with this one.
On a separate note, I am surprised that there has not been any calls for there to be a higher starting point for honour killings. In practice, the higher level of planning that is often involved, will commonly lead to a higher sentence, but I wouldn’t bet against seeing someone suggest a 20 or 25 year tariff for such murders.