By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - A British court sentenced seven men to life of up to 34 years on Thursday for the murder of an innocent woman killed by mistake in a drive-by shooting.
Aya Hachem, a 19-year-old law student, was killed in Blackburn, Lancashire, on May 17, 2020. Her family had moved to Britain to flee violence in their native Lebanon.
She died at a hospital from a bullet wound after it entered and exited her left shoulder.
Hachem was on the way to the supermarket to buy food for a daily fast-breaking meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The shooting was arranged by Feroz Suleman, 40, who wanted the owner of a rival tire shop, Pachah Khan, to be executed. The first bullet hit the shop's window, the second struck and killed Hachem.
Suleman and Khan had an intense rivalry that began when Khan started to sell tires.
The Preston Crown Court sentenced Suleman to a minimum of 34 years in prison.
"You were the driving force behind the whole deadly enterprise from beginning to end and followed through this plan with obsessive determination," Justice Mark Turner, who handed down the sentence, told Suleman.
"When you were in prison, you commented to Abubakr Satia you were the captain of the ship and if you were to go down then everyone would go down with you. How right you were."
Hitman Zamir Raja, 33, was given 34 years. Driver Anthony Ennis, 31, was sentenced to at least 33 years.
Several collaborators were also sentenced. Ayaz Hussain received 32 years, while brothers Abubakr and Uthman Satia got 28 years and Kashif Manzoor was given 27 years.
Uthman Satia's girlfriend, Judy Chapman, was found not guilty of murder or attempted murder but was found guilty of manslaughter.
The Hachem family "thanked God for the justice that has been served."
"We are so proud of you and we miss you so much -- our lives are difficult without you," they said in a statement after the sentences were delivered.
"You loved life and despite all the struggles and barriers that we faced in this country, it did not stop you contributing to your community and charities including the Children's Society and fundraising at Salford University where you were studying to become a barrister. We love you."