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‘Diversion’ deal settles assault case

Jordan family was accused of beating daughter

SHARE ‘Diversion’ deal settles assault case

The case of a family from Jordan who allegedly beat and kidnapped a relative because she was involved in a lesbian relationship has been resolved after the alleged assailants and the state entered into a "diversion agreement."

That kind of agreement delays the start of any prosecution for a period of time and, in this case, it is two years, according to Deputy Salt Lake District Attorney Kent Morgan. "It will result in a dismissal of the charges if the defendants comply with the terms of the agreement."

In this case, the family members who allegedly committed the crimes cannot engage in any other acts against the victim and cannot violate any state or federal laws.

"The reason the case was resolved is because the victim felt she would be unable to testify against the individuals who caused her harm," Morgan said. "Therefore, the state's interest is that no further injury would be occasioned to the victim and to ensure that something was done about this egregious situation."

The case began with legal battling that eventually reached the Utah Supreme Court.

Muna Hawatmeh's brothers, Iehab Hawatmeh and Shaher Hawatmeh; her father, Jamil Hawatmeh; and mother, Wedad Hawatmeh; originally were charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a third-degree felony. If convicted, they would face prison terms of up to life behind bars.

The father, Jamil Hawatmeh, died on Nov. 21, 2001.

The victim, Muna Hawatmeh, testified at a preliminary hearing that her parents and two brothers beat her for four hours until she could scarcely walk on Oct. 13, 1999. She had been living with a lover despite her family's insistence that she return to her parents' home to live, which is the custom in Jordan. She said she had gone to their house to try to mend the relationship.

Muna Hawatmeh testified that a brother threatened her with a knife and, out of fear, she said she would change her life and return to Jordan.

The family packed and headed for the airport the next day, but police were alerted by Muna Hawatmeh's girlfriend and an officer persuaded a brother on his cell phone to drive to the Sandy police station.

Family members said they were not taking her to Jordan but were concerned about her because she seemed depressed and were sending her to visit a sister in San Francisco to cheer her up.

The brothers, Iehab and Shaher Hawatmeh, said in a 1999 interview with the Deseret News that their family was not abusive and didn't hurt Muna, that the family disapproved of the lesbian lifestyle but accepted it, and they blamed Muna's girlfriend for the charges against them.

They contended that the girlfriend was "a controlling person" who was trying to separate their sister from her family and that their sister often was depressed and even suicidal.

The two brothers also said that their family had supported Muna Hawatmeh financially, paid credit-card bills, helped her buy a car and Iehab Hawatmeh even gave her a job at the company he owns, Circuit Technology Corp.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com