Parents guilty of murdering 'westernised' British daughter

LONDON - A British court found a Pakistani-born couple guilty on Friday of murdering their "westernised" teenage daughter in an apparent honour killing.

Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, were both found guilty of murder at Chester Crown Court in Cheshire, north-west England, after suffocating their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea in 2003.

In a high-profile case, Shafilea's sister Alesha had told the jury her mother had said: "Just finish it here," as they forced a plastic bag into Shafilea's mouth in front of their other children.

Iftikhar Ahmed stood impassively as the verdicts were given, while his wife wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue. They were due to be sentenced later on Friday.

Three of their children also broke down in tears as they watched from the courtroom.

Shafilea had disappeared from the family home in the town of Warrington, near Chester, in September 2003, and her body was found five months later on a riverbank in Cumbria, north-west England.

Prosecutors said the couple murdered her because they felt her "western" habits, such as wearing make-up and talking to boys, had brought shame on the family.

The court heard that Shafilea had run away from home and asked the local authority to provide her with emergency accommodation, just before she was drugged and taken to Pakistan in February 2003 to be forced into a marriage.

In a letter to social services, she said she had suffered from regular domestic violence since she was 15.

"One parent would hold me whilst the other hit me," she wrote. "I was prevented from attending college and my part-time job."

Her main reason for running away was that her parents "were going to send me to Pakistan and get me married to someone," she added.

Iftikhar Ahmed, a taxi driver, denied the murder and said Shafilea ran away from home. His wife also denied the killing, but told the jury she saw her husband beating Shafilea and believed that he killed her.

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