DUBAI // A father who tortured his eight-year-old daughter to death with the help of his girlfriend and buried her in the desert has been sentenced to execution.
The Criminal Court found H S, 29, an Emirati, and his girlfriend A M, 27, guilty of torturing his daughters Wadeema and Mira, 7, causing the death of Wadeema.
The Emirati girlfriend was sentenced to life in prison.
“Death?” she said in tears, as her partner’s sentence was given. She collapsed into a chair and a policewoman stepped in to hold the baby boy born in custody to the killers.
The death sentence is subject to automatic appeal, and must be approved by the emirate’s Ruler.
“This case shocked Emirati society,” said family and juvenile prosecutor Shihab Ahmed. “It doesn’t reflect our traditions and Islamic principles, and today is the day of judgment and punishment.”
The two were found to have tortured the sisters by burning them with irons and cigarettes, pouring boiling water over them and beating them with bars. The girls were also whipped with electrical cord.
Wadeema’s mother greeted the judge’s verdict with a smile.
“I just hope the verdict will be upheld and the sentence carried out,” she said later.
The court also found the couple guilty of burying Wadeema’s body without the proper permits, but cleared them of hiding her body.
Presiding Judge Maher Salameh said the father was drunk and high on tramadol when he assaulted Wadeema on the night of her death.
He beat his daughter for an hour with a bar, then locked her up in the bathroom, before finding her dead at dawn the next day.
Judge Maher said the father was well aware of the consequences of his actions, and therefore bore full responsibility for the girl’s death.
“The torture and lack of food combined would certainly cause death at some point,” he noted.
Before the verdict was announced Mr Ahmed demanded the death penalty, arguing that neither of the killers had shown any remorse over Wadeema’s death and that after burying her body in the desert they had continued to torture Mira.
“The punishment of death will be the only consolation to Wadeema’s loved ones,” he said. “According to law number 344 from the UAE Penal Code, we seek the death penalty.”
The father’s lawyer, Hani Al Jasmi, had claimed the evidence was inconclusive.
“The tools of torture mentioned in the case file were not fatal,” said Mr Al Jasmi.
He said the father loved his daughters and meant only to discipline them. “It was [the girlfriend] who tortured the girls.”
At one point in the trial the girlfriend had confessed to all charges and claimed full responsibility, saying the father had done nothing to the girls. She even requested she be sentenced to death.
But her lawyer, Hamdi Al Sheewi, said her confession “should not be taken seriously because it was given so that she could save her love”.
Mr Al Sheewi also argued that the evidence was inconclusive and based on hearsay.
“The only evidence here is the testimony of Mira,” Mr Al Sheewi said. “The other testimonies were from people who had heard of what happened but did not see it.”
The two girls were living with their father and his girlfriend in a studio apartment in International City. The father divorced their mother in 2006 after a four-year marriage.
Before the sentencing Mr Al Sheewi claimed the girls’ mother “should be standing next to the defendants and face charges as well”, claiming she had given up on her daughters and not enquired about them for months.
But the court rejected his argument.
At the end of the previous hearing the father withdrew his confession, saying he made it only to protect his newborn son.
“I confessed to all the charges because I didn’t want [my girlfriend] to be in prison and my son to be brought up there. I wanted to sacrifice myself for my son to be raised outside prison. I love my children.”
The case hastened child-protection legislation called Wadeema’s Law, passed last year by Cabinet and now awaiting FNC approval.