BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian appeals court in Ramallah on Monday sentenced a man to a lifetime of hard labor after he was found guilty of killing his two sisters in 2006 in Qalqiliya in the northern occupied West Bank, local sources told Ma'an Tuesday on the condition of anonymity.
The man had confessed to the murders, saying in his defense that his sisters "dishonored the family reputation."
Monday's ruling came after the Palestinian general prosecution appealed a decision by a lower court in Qalqiliya, which handed down a reduced sentence for the murders.
The Qalqiliya court, according to the source, sentenced the man to 15 years in prison, which was eventually reduced to eight years.
In 2006, the two sisters, aged 27 and 25, were found dead in their family home in Qalqiliya. Later the same day their brother was arrested and he confessed that he killed them for "family honor."
The source told Ma'an via telephone that the general prosecution in Ramallah considered the verdict by Qalqiliya court to be "extremely lenient," leading them to file the appeal, which was accepted by the court on Monday.
However, the decision is still open for appeal by the cessation court.
The judicial panel that accepted the appeal was comprised of Chief Judge Imad Maswada, Awatif Abd al-Ghani, and Kifah al-Shouli. The decision, according to the sources, was based on Article 327, Paragraph 3 of the Palestinian penal code of 1960.
In May 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to amend laws that reduce sentences for suspects who claim an "honor" defense for murdering women, in response to protests over the killing of university student Aya Baradiya in Hebron.
At the time, Abbas' legal adviser Hassan al-Ouri told Ma'an that such a reform would "not benefit women" and would cause "serious problems."
Lax laws encourage murder suspects to claim "honor" in their defense, officials and women’s rights activists say. "Because the penalty is one or two months, they consider killing her and dress it up as honor," former Minister of Women's Affairs Rahiba Diab told Ma'an back in 2012.
Khawla al-Azraq, who runs a women’s counseling center in Bethlehem, said that "Sometimes these girls are abused by someone in the family and they need to cover this (up) and they kill her; sometimes because they need her money," she said. "These are the real reasons for killing."
"In Palestine, this is the gap, that until now we don’t have our own legislation that really can protect women."