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UK court jails parents for life over honor killing of teen daughter

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A court in the north of England found that taxi-driver Iftikhar and his wife Farzana Ahmed, both originally from Pakistan, suffocated their daughter Shafilea in 2003.

Updated 7:59 a.m. ET: LONDON -- A British court on Friday sentenced a mother and father each to life in prison for murdering their 17-year-old daughter because they believed she had brought shame on their family.

The Chester Crown Court in the north of England, earlier found that taxi-driver Iftikhar, 52, and his wife Farzana Ahmed, 49, both originally from Pakistan, suffocated their daughter, Shafilea, in 2003.


Shafilea's brother Junyad and sister Mevish cried in court, as did a younger sibling who cannot be named for legal reasons, The Guardian newspaper reported.

After the verdict was read, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed initially remained impassive, but Farzana Ahmed started to cry as she was led out of court, and Iftikhar Ahmed turned and cursed at police officers sitting nearby, The Guardian said.

The trial judge, Justice Roderick Evans, sentenced them to life in prison, ordering each to serve a minimum of 25 years.

During the trial in northern England, Shafilea's sister Alesha told the jury that her parents pushed Shafilea onto the couch and she heard her mother say "just finish it here" as they forced a plastic bag into the girl's mouth.

Alesha said her parents thought that Shafilea was too Westernized. She also said Alesha refused an arranged marriage.

In her testimony in May, she told the court that her parents would often argue with their older daughter over her clothes, her friends and who she was speaking to on the phone.

Read more coverage of this case by NBC News' British partner ITV News

"Shafilea was leading a life she thought our parents would not approve of. ... There would be physical abuse directed at Shafilea. It was both of them. My mum more because she was at home more," she said, according to ITV News.

"There was an incident in the kitchen, she had her hair in a plait and my parents had a knife to scare her. They passed the knife between them. I was in the kitchen then ran off," she said. "They were just hitting her. It was frantic and out of control and she just sat there taking it. The knife was used to scare her. After I saw she had marks on her neck."

Dead UK teen's sister: Our parents murdered her over Westernized lifestyle

Shafilea drank bleach in an apparent attempt to kill herself while on a family trip to Pakistan after learning that her parents intended her to have an arranged marriage. Later, while still weakened by that incident, she was killed, the prosecution told the court.

'Responsible for her care and well being'
Henry Riding, the barrister for the prosecution, said that the two parents acting together had killed their daughter.

"They were her parents and responsible for her care and well being," The Guardian quoted Riding as saying.

Read more stories from Britain's ITV News

"We have waited for this day for many years. We have watched as her killers roamed free. Yet today we heard those important words -- words that have finally brought our friend the justice she deserves," The Guardian quoted Shafilea's best friend, Melissa Powner, as saying.

"Shafilea was a caring, high-spirited and brave young lady who even in her toughest times always strived to remain positive and hopeful that one day she too would be able to live the peaceful and happy life that she deserved,” she said, according to the newspaper.

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Listening device
During the trial, the court heard that police had secretly put a listening device into the Ahmeds’ home in November 2003 when Shafilea Ahmed was still considered as a missing person.

Farzana Ahmed was heard telling one of her other children, "if the slightest thing comes out of your mouth, we will be stuck in real trouble. Remember that," ITV News reported.

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The Guardian said that Iftikhar Ahmed was heard saying, "By getting the support of newspapers, you can get away with murder."

Prosecutor Andrew Edis said the father was also heard saying "What are they going to find in the car?", while his wife said "Even if they find saliva in the car, it’s not as if she didn't sit in the car."

More coverage about Britain on the World Blog

The dead girl's body was found beside the River Kent in Cumbria, England, in February 2004.

Police in Britain investigated hundreds of cases of forced marriages last year.

The highest incidence of reported forced marriages is in Muslim communities. Britain is home to more than 1.8 million Muslims.

NBC News staff, ITV News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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