Antwerp: 24 years for wife murderer

Antwerp: 24 years for wife murderer

Omar Sellami (38) was found guilty by an Antwerp criminal court of killing his wife, Karima Sellami (24). The accused had strangled his wife on November 22, 2007 in their apartment in Merksem (Antwerp). The court sentenced him to 24 years in jail, taking into account the exceptionally brutal way in which he killed his wife, the suffering he had caused Karima and her relatives, and the aggressive, authoritarian and obstinate character Omar showed.

Chairman Dirk Thys said: "You received a harsh punishment, but in our society it's not tolerated that men treat women in the way you've done. If you can't accept that, you'll never function in our society."

Omar confessed last year that he was responsible for his wife's death. For two years had had sworn "by Allah" that Karima had strangled herself under the influence of the angry spirits that had possessed her.

When he finally confessed, he said that Karima had told him that day that she had slept with another man. Omar says he flew at her, grabbed her by the throat and didn't let go until she didn't respond anymore.

Karima married Omar when she was 17, and according to her older sister, Latifa, it was her decision. In the beginning they were happy, but a year and a half later, the marriage had a deep crisis.

Latifa: "Omar caused a lot of damage: The children lost their mother, and I, my sister. He should have looked for a different way out. If it was truly not going, he should have divorced her, because this, she didn't deserve."

"Omar beat her with a belt, Karima showed me her blue spots. He didn't want her to work or to associate with her sisters or friends from school. Omar wanted to be done with her, since she wasn't his ideal wife. Nevertheless, he knew before their marriage what she wanted in her life." Latifa says she advised her sister to divorce Omar, but though her sister seemed to want it at times, at others she dared not leave him.

Karima unburdened herself to Khalil. "I got to know Karima at the end of 2006. She was a good friend, but nothing more. She told me she wasn't happy in her marriage: her husband was older, didn't work, constantly asked for money and had a different mentality than she did. She didn't love him any more."

Karima also told Khalil of a visit by a exorcist, since in her culture [ie: Moroccan] a woman who didn't love her man was supposed to be possessed by black magic. Khalil didn't believe in that, but Latifa had noticed something strange with her sister. "Her stomach sometimes moved like a rotating washing machine. According to an imam, she was possessed by three Jewish spirits. Sometimes I believe that she was possessed, but at other times I think that spirits don't exist.

Karima didn't get much understanding from her parents. They showed her the door, since she wanted to work outside her home, and her husband was against it. Her father didn't think it was abnormal that Omar beat his wife. "She was disobedient."

Abdelkader, Karima's father, gave his eight children a traditional Moroccan upbringing. He taught them a wife must show respect for her husband, that she must obey him and that he may beat her if she doesn't. According to her father, Karima brought her marriage problems on herself by not respecting Omar and deserved to be beaten.

Rahma, Karima's mother, didn't agree with her husband. "A man may not beat his wife. I've told Omar that if the problems continue, he must divorce." But she also turned her daughter away. "I agreed with Omar, since I was afraid that he would beat Karima otherwise."

Abdelkader says that due to Omar's beatings, Karima had become afraid and had to go to a faith healer, but there was no issue of spirits. Rahma first supporter her husband, but later said that Karima had three spirits.

Abdelkader and Rahma remember their daughter as a cheerful girl. Rahma had trouble with the way Omar killed her: "He strangled her like a chicken. It wasn't a quick death, Karima had a tough time of it. He didn't only kill her, but also me. It pains me that had lied for so long."

Karima and Omar's children are now being brought up by her parents. "I hope Omar understands that he left them as orphans," says Rahma.

Sources: HLN 1, 2, 3, 4 (Dutch)

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