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Pakistani judge reopens 2012 'honor killing' case

By Katharine Houreld

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani judge re-examining allegations of a mass "honor killing" on Tuesday ordered the case reopened, a lawyer involved in the case said.

Five women from the remote northern region of Kohistan were allegedly killed by their families in 2012 after they were filmed on a cellphone clapping and singing in a house with two boys. The allegations shocked Pakistan - even though honor killings occur daily across the country - and the Supreme Court ordered an investigation.

Investigators spoke to women who said they were the alleged victims, proving the murders had never taken place, but evidence has since emerged which suggests they may have been impostors.

On Tuesday, Mohamed Irshad, a judge at a local court which is looking into the case again, said those women must appear in court on February 26 or else the victims' bodies should be presented, according to lawyer Mazhar Akram Awan from the National Commission on the Status of Women.

The order appears to be a last-ditch effort to decide whether or not the crime did take place and whether there should be a prosecution.

The judge re-opened the case after the people accused of killing the women were convicted of other murders related to the case.

Last month six relatives of the women were jailed for killing three brothers of the men in the video. The three were shot dead a year ago as they prepared to pray on a mountainside.

The two men in the video have been in hiding ever since it emerged.

The judge who sentenced the killers said there was no doubt they had murdered the brothers in revenge for the video.

Afzal Kohistani, the brother of the dead men, says he and his two remaining brothers have been in hiding ever since the girls were killed. He first alerted the Supreme Court to the case and has been pushing for it to be reopened ever since.

"If the judges and investigators had done a proper job looking into the deaths of the women in the first place, my brothers would not be dead," he said.

Last year Reuters spoke to a witness to the girls' funerals and uncovered photographic evidence suggesting the Supreme Court investigators may have met impostors. But judges refused to look at fresh evidence and police said no one had directed them to investigate.

In parts of deeply conservative Pakistan, just talking to or looking at a man is enough to get a woman killed. Women's rights group The Aurat Foundation says there are about 1,000 honor killings a year.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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