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Colonial Cases

Abdullah Beg al-Falah as-Sa’dun, 1932


Abdullah Beg al-Falah as-Sa'dun

Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 5 January 1932


ARAB TRIBAL HONOUR CODE                                                             [IRAQ]


   Baghdad. - The case in which Abdullah Beg al-Falah as-Sa'dun was charged with the premeditated murder of Abdullah Beg as-Sana, the Director General of the Ministry of Interior, has ended in a verdict of death.  The case will be appealed, and it is understood that influence in high quarters is being solicited on behalf of the condemned man.  The Prime minister and the former Minister of Interior gave evidence on his behalf.

"Great Sheikh And Noble Chief"

   The case was remarkable in that the ancient Arab tribal code of honour was invoked as a defence, the crime being admitted by the prisoner, who said he travelled specially to Baghdad to kill Abdullah Beg as-Sana for having dared to marry a Sa'dun girl, being himself of servile origin.  Counsel for the defence gave an address in which he emphasised that "a great sheikh and a noble chief" was under trial for murder which he admitted he had carried out under the ancient Arab code of honour.

Lower Rank

   Counsel then  said that the marriage of Abdullah Beg as-Sana and the daughter of Sir Abdul Muhein Beg as-Sa'dun was not even considered legal by the Sa'dun family, because one of the partners was not equal in breeding to the other; the husband, indeed, belonged to a very much lower rank lf life than his wife, whereas according to the  code invariably observed in high-class Arab families, equality of social status was an indispensable condition  if a marriage were to be regarded as legal and binding.

   Counsel then told the Court about the important position held by the prisoner as a great chief who, when occasion arose, was followed by 10,000 men.  The Turkish Government, alleged counsel, were afraid of the prisoner, and for that reason they had him elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in Constantinople.  Further proof of the fact that the prisoner was a man of whom the authorities thought that he was well worth watching, was to be found in the fact that during the British occupation of the country all the prisoner's property was confiscated by the British authorities, in order that he should not be in a position to foment revolution.  Since the establishment of the National Government in Iraq the prisoner had been elected more than once to represent an important section of the community in the Chamber of Deputies.

The Tribal Code.

   Counsel asked the Court to give its verdict under the tribal law.  Under this code, he declared, it was really impossible for a man of the prisoner's standing to tolerate the marriage of a  daughter of his family to a man whom he regarded as little higher than a slave - a marriage which under the tribal code they did not regard as even legal.

   The Court, before giving its verdict, summarized the circumstances in which the murder had taken place, and said that the members of the Court had come to the conclusion that the murder was premeditated, and that the normal law should apply, and not the tribal law.  The Court then sentenced the prisoner to death.  The prisoner, who was very pale and was under the stress of great emotion, said that he was glad to think he would be a martyr to his conception of his duty.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School