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Pakistani Court Frees Man Who Murdered Sister In High-Profile Honor Killing

Social media star Qandeel Baloch was found strangled in her home in Punjab Province in 2016.

The brother of a Pakistani social media star who confessed to killing his sister in one of the country's most notorious honor killings on February 14 was acquitted and is expected to be freed after serving just a few years of a life sentence.

Muhammad Waseem was arrested in 2016 after his sister, Qandeel Baloch, was found strangled in her home near the city of Multan in Punjab Province. The 26-year-old had posted what Waseem called “shameful” pictures on Facebook.

The murder drew nationwide condemnation in Pakistan, where hundreds of women are killed every year by male relatives over perceived damage to the family’s honor. It also resulted in changes to laws covering honor killings.

Baloch became famous for her suggestive and defiant posts on Facebook and used her fame to build a modeling career. Waseem said at the time that he had no remorse because his sister's behavior was "intolerable." He initially confessed to the murder but later changed his plea and was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison.

Policemen escort a handcuffed Muhammad Waseem after he leaves a court in Multan following his guilty verdict in 2019.
Policemen escort a handcuffed Muhammad Waseem after he leaves a court in Multan following his guilty verdict in 2019.

Sardar Mehboob, a lawyer for Waseem, said on February 14 that he had been "fully acquitted" by a court in Multan after his parents sought his release.

A lawyer for the siblings' mother said she had given her consent to pardon him.

She welcomed the court order, telling reporters that her slain daughter cannot come back “but I am thankful to the court, which ordered the release of my son at our request."

Islamic law in Pakistan at the time of Baloch's murder allowed a victim’s family to pardon a convicted killer. The law dealing with honor killings was later amended to say that no one could be set free based solely on a pardon by a family member. But it is left to a judge to determine whether a murder is a crime of honor, meaning killers can theoretically claim a different motive and still be pardoned.

Waseem is expected to be released later this week, Mehboob said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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