Women hold placards during a rally to denounce domestic violence on "International Women's Day" on March 8, 2014 in Beirut
Women hold placards during a rally to denounce domestic violence on "International Women's Day" on March 8, 2014 in Beirut © Anwar Amro - AFP/File
Women hold placards during a rally to denounce domestic violence on
AFP
Last updated: July 2, 2014

Lebanese wife-beater convicted under new law

A Lebanese man who beat his wife has been jailed for nine months in the first such conviction under a domestic violence law passed in April.

Hussein Ftouni, aged 30, will also be fined 20 million Lebanese pounds ($13,258) for a brutal assault on his 22-year-old wife Tamara Harissi.

Women's rights group Kafa said the verdict, announced on Tuesday, was a milestone first conviction, but criticised the short sentence.

"It's the first case where the perpetrator has been sentenced under the new law, that we are aware of," Kafa communications coordinator Maya Ammar told AFP.

"But we don't see the sentence as sufficient. Of course it is better than releasing him, as his attorney requested, but he was convicted of beating her, not attempted murder," she said.

"For us, the evidence clearly shows attempted murder, and we think that is what he should have been convicted of."

Speaking to AFP at her parents' home, Harissi said: "Considering all the pain I went through in the past year and a half (of marriage), even a life sentence wouldn't really be sufficient."

"Life with him (her husband) was no life at all... every week I was beaten," she said in a soft voice.

"Once, he dragged me by the hair onto the street, in front of everyone, just because I was wearing clothes he didn't like," she alleged.

Harissi married Ftouni in secret, because her family was against the union from the start.

She said the last time her husband beat her was on June 8. She said he tied her feet up, poured alcohol over her and tried to set her on fire. He left the house briefly, threatening to kill her on his return.

Harissi managed to escape, and phoned her sister, who then got the security forces to intervene.

Ammar said Harissi had not yet decided whether to appeal the nine-month sentence.

She called the case something of a milestone, praising the speedy issuance of a protection order, Ftouni's arrest and the verdict against him.

But she also said Harissi faced the challenge of seeking a divorce through a religious court.

"She still has a long battle to go through, but hopefully the religious authorities will grant her a divorce," said Ammar.

Lebanon is seen as one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, but many of its laws continue to discriminate against women.

Women suffering domestic abuse often fail to report it for fear of public criticism, and police have been known to tell victims of spousal assault to return to their husbands.

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