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Sentence extended over death of Palestinian girl in Sweden

Eight-year-old Yara was beaten to death with a rolling pin by her uncle’s wife when she moved to Sweden from Gaza

Published: Updated:

The uncle of a Palestinian girl beaten to death by his wife in April 2014 had his sentence extended on Wednesday from six years to 14 years, Aftonbladet newspaper reported.

Yara al-Najjar, an eight-year-old girl seeking refuge from Gaza in Sweden, was beaten to death with a rolling pin. In February, Swedish courts gave Amani Madi, the wife of Yara’s uncle, a life sentence.

His sentence was amended to include aggravated assault, as well as the previous charges of negligence and failing to act when Yara was being beaten. They each have to pay 75,000 Swedish kronor ($9,000) in compensation to Yara’s parents.

Lennart Svensäter, the Supreme Court’s chief judge, said the uncle “must have understood that such an extensive beating of a little girl could lead to death. By not intervening, he made himself guilty of murder.”

The uncle’s lawyers said he admitted to being present during the fatal assault, but had told his wife to calm down when he saw her chasing Yara with the rolling pin.

Yara’s mother Madleen reportedly broke down several times during the court proceedings, calling her brother and his wife “murderers” and “animals.”

Yara’s parents’ counsellor said: “For them, there’s no punishment that’s enough. They can never get Yara back.”

Her parents had sent Yara to live with her uncle and his wife in Karlskrona, Sweden, to protect her from violence in Gaza after a bomb went off in her school and left her traumatized.

The first paramedic to arrive at the murder scene said it was “the worst thing” he had ever seen in his 35-year career.

The autopsy found old fractures, so Swedish police assume that at the very least she was beaten throughout the spring of 2014.

“It was only when the autopsy was taking place that I saw the extent of Yara’s injuries,” said Mats Dalén, police detective for Blekinge region.

“I’ve never – never – seen that kind of aggression toward a child. It was so widely spread that I had a hard time taking it in. There was hardly a place where she wasn’t injured.”

Several complaints had been filed with Swedish social services on suspicion that there was child abuse going on in her home, as she often came to school covered in bruises. However, the complaints were never taken seriously.

“I don’t want to go home,” Yara told one of her teachers just hours before she was beaten to death.

She had told her friends at school that she got “a lot of beatings,” and that her uncle had put out cigarettes on her feet. However, she told her friends not to say anything otherwise she would be killed.

Neighbors often saw Yara with a black eye and covered in bruises. They told police she was an “angel” who had been given the responsibility of cleaning, laundry and carrying heavy grocery bags.