By Bashir Ahmad Ghazali and Frud Bezhan
An Afghan prisoner serving 20 years for murdering his in-laws is now suspected of strangling his young bride during a conjugal visit. Din Mohammad, who is serving his sentence at a prison in the northern Samangan Province, is accused by police of killing his wife when she visited him on January 1. Mohammad was convicted in 2009 of killing his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law during a bloody rampage.
Mohammad has yet to be charged for the latest crime.
Samangan police chief Akram Bikzad said Mohammad’s 18-year-old wife, whose name has not been revealed, visited him in jail in the provincial capital, Aybak. She was found dead in a private room used by inmates to visit close family members.
According to Bikzad, preliminary reports indicate that Mohammad strangled and then hanged his wife, with whom he had a young son. Bikzad indicated that the killing occurred just days after Mohammad had been told his spouse was involved in an adulterous relationship.
“His wife used to visit him every five days or so,” he said. “Recently, [Mohammad’s] mother told him that his wife was having an illicit affair. So, during her visit to the prison — family are allowed to visit for about one hour at a time — Mohammad took the opportunity to strangle her.”
Mohammad’s mother, whose name has not been released, was detained late on January 1 as she attempted to leave the city, according to the police chief, and is being held for questioning.
Bikzad described Mohammad’s 20-year sentence for killing three of his wife’s family members as “lenient” and predicted he would receive a death sentence if found guilty of strangling his wife.
Najia Aimak, a women’s rights activist and member of parliament from the northern Baghlan Province, has condemned the killing and called for Mohammad to face execution.
“When this person murdered three people three years ago authorities didn’t deliver a just conviction,” she said. “[This punishment] allowed him to kill again. We hope judicial officials take on this case and bring the perpetrator to justice.”
Capital punishment is legal in Afghanistan and applied for a variety of crimes, including murder, terrorism, adultery, drug trafficking, and treason.
A death sentence for murder, however, is uncommon. Most offenders receive jail sentences. But with no standard punishment for murder, sentences can vary with each case.
The case comes amid an increase in so-called honor killings, the murder of women for allegedly dishonoring the family in some way, such as committing adultery.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 4,010 cases of violence against women in the seven months between March and October this year — nearly twice as many as in the previous 12 months.
The commission lists beatings and mutilation as the most common forms of violence, while noting the spike in honor killings.
In December, the United Nations noted some progress in protecting women and girls from violence, but warned that Afghanistan “still has a long way to go.”
In its report issued on December 11, the UN’s mission in Afghanistan said positive steps had been taken toward applying 2009 legislation that criminalizes violence against women. But it said the laws are still only periodically enforced, with only a small percentage of reported incidents duly processed and resulting in convictions.
According to Aimak, Afghan women who have suffered from violence rarely receive justice.
Even if their cases go to trial, she said, most result in the acquittal of the perpetrators, the dropping of charges to less serious crimes, convictions with shorter sentences, or the female victims themselves being accused of “moral crimes” for making private matters public.