3 Nov 2010

Victim in multiple 'honour killings' attempted to marry just weeks before her murder

The Montreal Gazette - August 1, 2009

Eldest daughter of Kingston canal murder suspect attempted to marry

By Paul Cherry, Gazette crime reporter

During the two years her family lived in Canada, Zainab Shafia was constantly at odds with her parents as she pushed for more freedom from their conservative ways, says the man who was married to the 19-year-old woman for one day shortly before she was killed.

Shafia was killed on June 30, along with her two sisters – Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13, – and Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, as her family was returning from Niagara Falls to St. Léonard.

Charged with first-degree murder in all four homicides is the sisters’ father Mohammad Shafia, 56, along with their mother Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 39, and their brother Hamed Shafia, 18.

The bodies of all four victims were discovered in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal at the Kingston Mills Locks.

The Kingston police confirmed last week that they are investigating the possibility the homicides were part of what Rona Amir Mohammad’s relatives allege were so-called honour killings. Mohammad was Shafia’s first wife, a detail he tried to conceal from the Kingston police after the bodies were found.

Before being arrested last week, Shafia and his second wife also theorized that their oldest daughter took their Nissan without their permission during a stop in their trip, didn’t have a driver’s license and probably caused an accident that killed all four. The Kingston police have said they don’t believe this theory at all.

There are now details emerging about Zainab’s relationship with her parents and how she chafed under their tight control after the family moved to Canada from Dubai two years ago.

Ammar Wahid, a 26-year-old Montrealer, told The Gazette that he and Zainab were married in May but that immediately after the religious ceremony her parents convinced her to end the union.

“She was very friendly and very attractive. I wouldn’t say we fell in love right away. But the more we got to know each other the more we fell in love. I asked her to marry me. She said she wanted to marry me but her parents weren’t happy with it.

“It’s the culture. They didn’t want to accept someone from outside their country,” said Wahid who is from Pakistan.

The Shafia family was originally from Afghanistan but moved to Dubai in the 1990s. Mohammad Shafia married both his wives in Afghanistan where it is legal for a man to marry more than one woman.

Wahid said Zainab talked often of her father and how he tried to control her. He also said he believes Zainab was engaged to another man “about 18 months ago.”

“I think her parents were happy with that engagement but she wasn’t and she broke it off after six months,” Wahid said of the woman he met while both were taking courses at the same school two years ago.

Zainab had just arrived in Canada but made friends quickly, he said.

“She was the kind of person everyone got along with. She had quite a few friends at school despite being new there.”

Wahid said he and Zainab were married at a mosque in St. Léonard on May 19. They decided to end the union the following day after seeing how both of their families reacted. They tried to hold a reception but no one from Wahid’s side of the family showed up and Zainab’s parents convinced her to end it. Wahid said he never filed the document to have the marriage officially recognized in Quebec.

Wahid said he was disappointed but felt “there was nothing I could do about it. It’s about the culture. They wanted to follow their culture.”

Zainab’s father couldn’t accept that Wahid was from Pakistan and not Afghanistan, Wahid said.

“My parents didn’t approve but they said I was old enough to do what I wanted.”

According to a report in the Toronto Sun, Zainab was planning to announce her engagement to Hussain Hyderi, a 27-year-old Montrealer, the day after she was killed. The man told the newspaper that he “never loved anyone as much as I loved Zainab.”

A St. Léonard resident with the same family name is on a list of people the accused can not communicate with while their case is before the courts.

The Gazette tried to contact the person on the list last week but a relative said he would only have something to say after the murder case is over.

Wahid said Mohammad Shafia did not only disapprove of Zainab’s choice in men. He said her father debated his daughter on whether she should work or continue to pursue her education. She left her family’s home in St. Léonard earlier this year after arguing over such a topic, Wahid said, adding he was shocked when he learned Zainab’s body had been found in Kingston.

He thought Zainab and her father had patched things up in June, after Mohammad Shafia returned from a trip. Wahid said he had little reason to suspect wrongdoing. That changed when a Kingston police detective travelled to Montreal, before any charges were laid, to talk to Wahid. When the investigator asked questions about his relationship with Zainab, Wahid said he realized there might have been something more sinister involved.

“The last time we spoke was two weeks before she passed away,” he said. “She called me, I think, and said she was happy at home. Her father had just come back from Dubai and she asked him for forgiveness and he forgave her. She said ‘my parents are letting me go out, letting me go to work’ and stuff like that. I said ‘I’m happy for you. At least you got your freedom.’ Two weeks after that conversation I sent her an email. I never got the reply.”

This article was found at:



Ontario father and son plead guilty to murdering teen girl to protect the 'honour' of her family 
Girl, Interrupted - Is this a case of Islamic honour killing or domestic violence?

Victim in multiple 'honour killings' attempted to marry just weeks before her murder

Canadian police investigate relative's claims that 4 women and girls were murdered in so-called 'honour killings'

Canadian parents and son charged with 4 murders, police investigate probable 'honour killing' motive

Canadian judge convicts father for threatening violence against daughter in the name of honour

New Canadian immigration guide says multiculturalism no excuse for barbaric practices like honour crimes, forced marriages, genital mutilation

Montreal mother charged with attempted murder of daughter for staying out late in so-called 'honour' crime

Honour killings may be culturally driven, but the cultures that practice it are all religious

Canadian social worker exposes the religious and cultural assumptions at the root of honour killings

UN estimates 5000 women and girls murdered annually in so-called 'honour killings'

The difference between 'honor killings' and domestic violence

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UN report says child brides, forced marriage, slavery, extreme violence against women widespread in Afghanistan

Afghan girls have educational dreams and goals but few are free to pursue them despite constitutional rights

Afghan teen in US for surgery after Taliban husband cut off her nose must also recover emotionally from lifetime of brutal abuse

Afghan teen who had nose and ears cut off by order of Taliban court is in U.S. for reconstructive surgery

Afghanistan's child 'brides' face life of violence, some suicides by fire are actually disguised murders

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Afghan Women Slowly Gaining Protection

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Afghan girl says acid attack won't stop her lessons

Afghan Schoolgirls Undeterred by Attack

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Afghanistan passes controversial law allowing rapists to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to victims

Revised Afghan marriage law still allows child brides and violence towards women

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  1. ‘I would do it again’; court hears horror of alleged honour killing

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post Oct 20, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — It’s the Canadian Maple Leaf that flies high over the picturesque locks at Kingston Mills near this historic city, but on the night of June 30, 2009, it might just as well have been the black-red-and-green flag of Afghanistan, with its sacred line proclaiming the greatness of Allah. What happened at the locks that night, Crown prosecutors alleged in Ontario Superior Court Thursday, was a so-called “honour killing,” the culmination of a violent misogynist Afghan culture that had been transplanted holus-bolus years earlier into the heart of central Canada.

    “May the devil s— on their graves,” Mohammad Shafia told his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 20 days after the bodies of the couple’s three teenage daughters and Mr. Shafia’s first wife were recovered from a car in the water at the locks. Found dead by drowning in a black Nissan Mr. Shafia had bought just eight days earlier – the suggestion implicit that he got it for that very purpose — were Rona Amir Mohammad, the barren wife who had been presented to the children and outsiders both as an “auntie,” and rebellious daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and 13-year-old Geeti.

    Charged with four counts each of first-degree murder are Mr. Shafia, Ms. Yahya and their oldest son Hamid, who was 18 at the time. All are pleading not guilty. The ghastly conversation was captured on a Kingston Police wiretap, prosecutor Laurie Lacelle told Judge Robert Maranger and a jury. In another snippet recorded by the device police had placed in a family car, Mr. Shafia told Ms. Yahya, “They committed treason themselves. They betrayed humankind. They betrayed Islam. They betrayed our religion…they betrayed everything.”

    He said whenever he saw the pictures taken by Zainab and Sahar on their cell phones – these were goofy shots of them posing in bras and panties, or with their forbidden boyfriends — “I am consoled. “I say to myself, ‘You did well.’ Were they to come to life, I would do it again.”

    In a detailed opening address of 90 minutes, Ms. Lacelle told the jurors they would hear from a variety of witnesses, including those to whom Rona Mohammad and the children had confided their fear of Mr. Shafia and Hamid. In fact, what was most galling about the prosecutor’s overview of the evidence to come was how very openly the teenagers had rebelled against their parents — once, from a street corner in Montreal where the family lived, they begged a stranger to call 911 for them because they were so afraid to go home — and how little Canadian authorities and Canadian law helped them. In fact, Quebec child protection authorities twice investigated complaints from Sahar’s school, once little more than three weeks before the four bodies were found.

    In the first instance, Ms. Lacelle said, the social worker deemed the complaint to be “founded” – true, in other words – but closed the file anyway when Sahar wouldn’t talk to her once she learned that the worker would be obligated to tell her parents what she’d told her. The next time she interviewed the girl two days later, “Sahar was wearing the hijab” and claimed things had improved at home.

    In the second instance, though police in Montreal interviewed the children separately and had them open up about their maltreatment – including the fact that Mr. Shafia allegedly “often threatened to kill them” – the child protection worker interviewed the girls in the presence of their parents. Unsurprisingly, they clammed up or recanted their earlier allegations, and the worker closed the file.

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  2. Numbers didn’t add up for ‘honour killing’ accused

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post October 25, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — Just after half his family was either allegedly murdered or at the least tragically dead in a bizarre accident, Mohammad Shafia was still looking for a deal. “He was asking could he get a discount,” said Robert Miller, the manager of the Kingston East Motel where some of the Shafia clan – those who weren’t dead, that is — were then staying. “’Can’t you give me a better price?’” Mr. Miller remembered him saying, and his own reply: “No.”

    Mr. Miller was testifying Tuesday at the first-degree murder trial of the 58-year-old Mr. Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 21-year-old son Hamed. All are pleading not guilty. He said it was about noon on June 30, 2009, when Mr. Shafia and Hamed showed up at the motel office to say they’d decided to keep their two rooms for another night. The two had checked in just hours earlier, about 2 a.m., and after a couple of reminders that checkout was 11 a.m., they’d apparently decided to stay – but not without Mr. Shafia first trying to strike a bargain.

    Hours earlier, at 9 a.m. that same day, the bodies of four members of the sprawling family – three teenage daughters and Mr. Shafia’s first wife – were pulled from a black Nissan found at the bottom of the Kingston Mills locks not far away. Though Mr. Shafia, Ms. Yahya and Hamed all claimed at first they knew the four were missing only when they woke up that day, Ms. Yahya admitted on the day of their arrest the following month that they had all been present at the Kingston Mills locks when the Nissan went into the water there. If that’s true, that means, at minimum, when Mr. Shafia was attempting to get his bargain from Mr. Miller, he knew his daughters and first wife were at the bottom of the locks.

    Found in the submerged Nissan were Rona Mohammad Amir, Mr. Shafia’s first – and infertile – wife, and the couple’s daughters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13. Mr. Miller, of course, had no way of knowing of the grim discovery at the locks. But he was taken aback by how Mr. Shafia and son had reacted to something he asked when they woke him early that morning and asked about getting a couple of rooms. He asked his usual question, standard at every hotel and motel desk in the world: “How many people would there be in the rooms?”

    But to the two men standing in front of him, the question was a real puzzler. At first, Mr. Miller told Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and the jurors, the men “said there would be six. “Then the younger gentleman said there might be nine. “I said, well, how many people is there? And they settled on six.”

    The math – however elementary – is key, if not revealing. As prosecutor Laurie Lacelle told the jurors in her opening statement last week, it’s unclear when the Nissan with its cargo of women went into the water. The last cell phone transmission police tracked was at 1:36 a.m.; the bodies weren’t discovered until about 9 a.m.

    So it’s not known whether the four females were dead, whether by design or accident, when Mr. Shafia and Hamed checked in about 2 a.m., or if they died later. In total, the intact family numbered 10 — Mr. Shafia, the two wives and seven children. Subtract the four who perished, and the number of family members purportedly needing rooms that night would be six.

    The “nine” mentioned by Hamed may have stemmed from the fact that he was planning to drive back to Montreal, where the family lived, that night, and, according to what the trio told police, did go back. (In fact, he returned to stage an accident in Montreal with his father’s Lexus, which he belatedly admitted to police.) In any case, it is surely curious that even in a big family, neither of the men could keep an accurate count of the clan numbers. ...

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  3. Evidence in alleged honour killing not CSI sexy, but hefty

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post October 26, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — Now, judges routinely tell jurors that there’s no difference between so-called direct evidence, such as witness testimony, and indirect or circumstantial evidence. Especially in a CSI-driven era, when people may expect that every case has high-tech video and DNA, if not also a telepathic detective or two, it’s a useful reminder of the more mundane nature of real-world crime investigation. And indeed, in the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their 21-year-old son Hamed, Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger did just that.

    On the first day of trial last week, Judge Maranger told jurors that “both kinds of evidence count; the law treats them equally.” But suffice to say there may not be a jury in the country more excruciatingly familiar with the circumstantial stuff than this one. Mr. Shafia, Wife No. 2 and their son are each pleading not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the June 30, 2009, drowning deaths of four of their family members – sisters Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, respectively 19, 17 and 13, and Mr. Shafia’s first, and sadly infertile, wife, Rona Mohammad Amir, 53.

    The prosecution’s case against the three, to judge by Crown prosecutor Laurie Lacelle’s opening statement, involves plenty of both sorts of evidence. There will be a truckload of witnesses who will testify here about what one or another of the accused people told them; there are videotaped police interviews to be heard with each of the accused trio; there are police wiretaps to be played of the family’s conversations, some quite ghastly, after the four bodies were found. And Thursday, the jurors will be taken to the Kingston Mills locks about 20 minutes out of town – the alleged scene of the crime and certainly the place where a black Nissan was discovered submerged in the water there, with the four women in it, the car improbably wedged in a small space between a lock gate and the push bar used to move it.

    There, the jurors will see the place they have heard so much about and, as Judge Maranger said Wednesday, get the chance “to better appreciate some of the evidence.” But absent eyewitnesses who saw the Nissan going into the water, or a videotape of same, or a breast-beating confession – the prosecutors have none of these – much of their case rests upon a mountain of circumstantial evidence and the expert interpretation of it. The prosecutors’ theory is that the parents and son jointly planned what they call the deliberate murder of the four females, even researching murder on the web and the best places to commit it; that they attempted to cover up what they’d done by first blaming their eldest daughter for taking the keys to the Nissan and causing the fatal “accident,” and even staged a fake car crash to explain the damage to Mr. Shafia’s grey Lexus SUV; that they were motivated by a desire to restore family honour (thus the curious term “honour killing”) purportedly tainted by their rebellious daughters and their taking of boyfriends and wearing of makeup and revealing clothing.

    Key are the links between the Nissan and the Lexus and the quality of work done by Kingston Police, the OPP experts they used and the analysis of other experts at the provincial crime lab in Toronto. A week in, there are already 66 exhibits, some with multiple items. ...

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  4. Accused in alleged honour killing showed no sign of distress

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post October 28, 2011

    Mohammad Shafia was not, shall we say, rent with grief. It was June 30, 2009. Just a couple of hours before, a boyish Kingston Police detective had broken it to him that police had discovered a submerged black Nissan, with deceased people in it, and that they believed the car and occupants were the very ones Mr. Shafia had come to the station that day to report as missing....
    As Det. Dempster told Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and a jury Friday, “taking care of the family” was his priority. ... the detective was going to talk to Mr. Shafia, with the interpreter, to learn about the family and what on Earth might have happened. That videotaped interview, about an hour long, was played in court and is now an exhibit at the murder trial of the trio....
    Det. Dempster ... asked Mr. Shafia to tell him as much as he could about his family and the events leading to this day. What followed was Mr. Shafia’s own illustration of the merits of the “keep it simple, stupid” mantra, and his inability to do so. The family had gone to Niagara Falls for a vacation, he said, “mainly for the kids.” They stayed in a hotel there, then “the kids said, ‘Let’s go, it’s enough,’” particularly Zainab, he said, who “wanted to be engaged and was anxious to go back” to the family’s Montreal home. (This, as the police later learned and the jurors have heard already, is a crock: Zainab in fact had recently run away from home and came back only when her mother promised she could marry her boyfriend. That marriage was annulled the same day it took place, and now Zainab was on offer to her mother’s cousin.)

    Mr. Shafia seemed logical so long as he was talking about business ... or when he kept his answers short. But the officer, just trying to figure out who was who in the family and who had been in which car when the family left the Falls, wasn’t eliciting many simple answers. First, Mr. Shafia said his wife and son did the driving. Then he said his wife got tired, so they stopped near Kingston, and, in the morning when they woke up, the Nissan and the four were gone. Boom, just like that. Then, pressed ever so gently by the detective, he said that when his wife got tired, Hamed took over at the wheel of the Nissan and he drove the Lexus. Then his wife had said no, she was fine now, and she drove the Nissan again. Then after another little while, she said she was tired and didn’t want to go any further, and said he and Hamed went to go find a hotel and the rest of them would wait.

    “Where was this stop?” Det. Dempster asked. “I don’t know because I don’t know the place,” said Mr. Shafia. “Was it in the city?” the detective asked. “Yes,” Mr. Shafia replied. “By a store or something?” “On the road,” said Mr. Shafia. “Then what?” Det. Dempster asked. “So we go to the hotel and the wife joined us and that’s it,” Mr. Shafia said. “How did your wife know which hotel to go to?” Det. Dempster said. “So, the wife stops there, on the road, and he and Hamed find a place, so he contacts her and says take the same road,” Mr. Shafia said.

    His tale became less internally consistent and more convoluted by the minute. ... He had long, animated side discussions with the interpreter where he appeared impatient or cross. Several times during the interview, when the detective was attempting to establish who had been in what vehicle or what motel room, Mr. Shafia had occasion to rhyme off the names of his family, including those of the newly dead. ... He didn’t flinch, wince, or show the slightest sign of distress. ...

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  5. Officer suspected family accused of honour killings knew more, court hears

    by Canadian Press November 01, 2011

    An Ontario jury is hearing that the first police officer to interview a Montreal family accused of killing four relatives almost immediately suspected they knew more than they were telling him.

    Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son, Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.

    Three teenage Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Shafia's other wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, were found dead inside a submerged car in June 2009 in the Rideau Canal.

    The family had stopped in Kingston, Ont., on their way home from a trip to Niagara Falls and they told police Zainab took the car keys when they were at the motel that night and that was the last they saw her.

    Court was shown videos today of police interviews with the family the day the bodies were found, and the detective is seen suggesting, especially to Hamed, that he may have witnessed something and isn't being truthful.

    The Crown alleges the three accused used one family car to push the other containing the four victims into the canal because they thought the daughters had dishonoured the family by having boyfriends.


  6. Mother accused of killing teen daughters had Karla Homolka moment with police

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post
    November 2, 2011

    On the lengthy video police interview now being played for Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and a jury, Tooba Mohammad Yahya pressed her face into the pictures of her children, wept, threw back her head and for a long while keened. From the prisoner’s box, with a full view of her own torment on the screen before her, Ms. Yahya also cried from time to time, and once bent over at the waist, her head to the floor, and disappeared from view altogether for about 15 minutes.

    It was distressing, as always it is to hear a person howl in pain, but then, this is Ms. Yahya we are describing, and she is no stranger, shall we say, to the theatre arts. Indeed, in the first two-thirds of the interview the jurors have seen on video Ms. Yahya also occasionally protested that she was tired, weak or sick; that her mind was not stable; flirt with her handsome male interrogator, albeit in a perfectly proper Muslim/Afghan way (it is not unlike Protestant flirting, except with more flowery language); argue with him and disagree with him and pretty much stand her ground.

    Only hours into the interview did she finally admit that on the night her three daughters and “that lady” – as she invariably and dismissively called Rona Amir Mohammad, ostensibly her husband’s cousin, but in truth his first wife – drowned in a black Nissan, she and her precious son Hamed heard the splash of the car entering the water at the Kingston Mills locks and ran toward it, “and we saw that a car was in the water.” Last time she’d seen that car, but minutes earlier by her own admission, it was jammed with three of her seven kids – Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, respectively 19, 17 and 13 – and Ms. Amir. But did she or Hamed do anything? Did they try to save the girls? Leap into the dark water? Call police?

    They did not, Ms. Yahya acknowledged, in her case, she said, because of course she swooned from the shock and “fell down” and “became unconscious,” as she is wont to do, and as for her son, she suggested, perhaps didn’t have his cell phone. “When the noise of the water came,” she told Farsi-speaking RCMP Inspector Shahin Mehdizadeh, who had been brought in by Kingston Police to interrogate her, “we ran. We ran and came. At that moment, I became so stressed, as I didn’t understand…I fell down. I screamed and fell down.” ...

    ... Until this admission that she, Hamed and Mr. Shafia were at the locks, Ms. Yahya had stuck stubbornly to her story, denying they were there that night, or that she had any knowledge of what could have happened to wipe out half her family.

    For all Insp. Mehdizadeh’s efforts – he both spoke softly to her and flat out called her a liar, invoked their common religion, praised her role as a mother, twice put a comforting hand on her shoulder – her admissions were few and far between. She admitted the three were there that night. She admitted that yes, her husband had once confided he wanted to kill the oldest daughter, Zainab, and that her brother had mentioned something about Mr. Shafia “wanted to kill or wants to kill something like that.”

    But even then, she had an explanation. In a bit of nonchalance reminiscent of Karla Homolka’s most infamous remark — that her husband, the killer Paul Bernardo, wanted to have sex with her baby sister only “the once,” and it was just the once and Tammy Homolka died during the drugging attack — Ms. Yahya elaborated. “Believe me he [Mr. Shafia] had never mentioned about killing them, as, ‘I want to kill the children.’ Not all, just her, because…” Insp. Mehdizadeh interrupted: “Which one? What is the name?” “Zainab,” Ms. Yahya replied. ...

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  7. ‘I haven’t killed them,’ sobbed mother accused of murdering her three teenage daughters

    by Rob Tripp, National Post November 2, 2011

    A Montreal woman accused of killing her three teenage daughters sobbed uncontrollably during a police interrogation after her arrest and she wept in court Wednesday as she watched a video of the interview played for jurors.

    Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son Hamed, 20, are each on trial on four counts of first-degree murder.

    The three, who have pleaded not guilty, were arrested in Montreal on July 22, 2009, three weeks after three Shafia sisters and Shafia’s first wife were found dead in a submerged car.

    That day, the accused mother was interrogated for six hours at the Kingston Police station.

    Const. Azadeh Sadeghi, the first of two police officers to question her in a small interview room, put a photo album of her children in front of her. Tooba began to cry big wracking sobs as she leafed through the album. At one point, she clutched the album to her face.

    “I haven’t killed (them) and I don’t want to talk,” she said, when asked if she murdered her family members. “I haven’t killed …”

    “If you try to be honest and start, you know, talking to me, open your heart,” the officer responded.

    “I don’t have anything in my heart except the grief of my children; I don’t have anything else.”

    When the officer left the room for a few minutes, the accused mother continued to weep and muttered several times: “Oh my God.”

    As her videotaped sobs filled the courtroom, her husband also began to cry in the prisoner’s box. Shafia held his hand to his eyes and turned his head, as if he could not bear to watch the video, played in the courtroom on three large video monitors.

    Hamed Shafia showed no visible emotion. He stared down at a binder in his lap which contained a 215-page transcript of his mother’s videotaped interview.

    Tooba wept in the prisoner’s box, holding a tissue over her eyes and part of her face.

    She was interviewed by two police officers who speak Farsi, a version of her native language, Dari. The entire interrogation was conducted in Farsi. The video played in court featured English subtitles. Jurors also had a transcript.

    A little more than an hour into the interview, the second officer, Insp. Shahin Mehdizadeh, takes over. The veteran Mountie is a trained interrogator and major crime investigator from British Columbia whose first language is Farsi.

    The bodies of Zainab, 19; Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found inside a car that was discovered on June 30, 2009, at the bottom of a shallow canal in Kingston. Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in his native Afghanistan.

    Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing staged to look like a car crash.

    Jurors have been told Shafia was enraged his daughters had shamed him by consorting with boys and dressing in revealing Western clothes. They also have been told Tooba had sought to cut Rona off from Shafia and spoke dismissively of Rona’s role in the family.


  8. ‘Honour-killing’ murder trial on hold after ‘medical emergency’

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 3, 2011

    The ‘honour-killing’ murder trial of an Afghan immigrant family is on hold.

    Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger told the jury Thursday morning that one of the three accuseds has “a medical emergency,” a “fairly serious one.”

    Though the judge didn’t identify the person, only Mohammad Shafia, 58, wasn’t in court for the sudden announcement.

    He, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their son Hamed are on trial in the June 30, 2009 drowning deaths of Rona Mohammad Amir, Mr. Shafia’s first wife, and three of Mr. Shafia’s and Ms. Yahya’s seven children, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, respectively 19, 17 and 13.

    The four women were found in a Nissan submerged in the Kingston Mills locks just outside the city.

    Judge Maranger sent the jurors home, telling them he hopes to have news for them by next Wednesday and that “We obviously want to keep the trial going.”

    The trial was in its third week of evidence, with a Farsi-speaking RCMP officer who interrogated Ms. Yahya after the trio’s arrest in the witness stand. Through the officer, the court was watching videos of that six-hour interrogation.

    Ms. Yahya, 41, Mr. Shafia and Hamed, 21, are each pleading not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.


  9. ‘Honour killing’ defendant to be released from hospital

    By Rob Tripp, National Post November 4, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — A Montreal man charged, along with his wife and son, with the murders of four family members in what the Crown calls an honour killing will be discharged from hospital Friday afternoon, allowing his trial to resume as soon as Tuesday.

    “They did what they were going to do at the hospital and they’re going to discharge him this afternoon,” defence lawyer Peter Kemp said Friday morning. “I’ve talked to the Crown and we’re going to try and get the jury back in and try and get this thing rolling on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.”

    Kemp represents Mohammad Shafia, 58, who was taken to a hospital Wednesday evening from the jail where he and his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, are being held while they are on trial in Kingston.

    The trio are accused of murdering the couple’s three daughters and Shafia’s first wife who were found dead in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal near Kingston in 2009. All have pleaded not guilty.

    The trial was abruptly halted Thursday because of Shafia’s illness. In court, the judge described it as a “serious medical emergency.”

    Kemp would not discuss the nature of the medical problem but said it does not require a long recovery period.

    “I’ve advised all the other counsel and the judge that (Shafia) is being discharged, and he’s anxious to get on with it,” Kemp said.

    Shafia was seen in a unit of Kingston General Hospital where heart problems are investigated and procedures are conducted. Kemp had previously said his client would undergo a “surgical procedure” Friday.

    Shafia was first taken Wednesday evening to a small community hospital in Napanee, Ont., just west of Kingston, but he was later moved to the larger hospital and placed in a section known as the cardiology lab.

    The trial began Oct. 20, and 17 of a possible 58 witnesses have completed their testimony. The 18th witness, an RCMP officer from British Columbia, was in the midst of his testimony when the trial was adjourned.

    Kemp said he understands the officer has already headed back to B.C. but the Crown will attempt to return him to Kingston so the trial can resume Tuesday.

    Jurors had watched most of a six-hour interrogation of Yahya by two police investigators, including the RCMP officer. The video featured long stretches of uncontrolled sobbing and crying by Yahya. In the courtroom, Yahya and Shafia both began to cry in the prisoner’s box as they viewed the recording. Shafia held a tissue to his face for long stretches and turned his head away, seemingly grimacing in pain.

    Zainab Shafia, 19; Sahar Shafia, 17, and Geeti Shafia 13 — all sisters — and Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a Nissan Sentra at the bottom of the shallow canal on June 30, 2009.

    The accused were arrested in Montreal roughly three weeks later.

    Prosecutors allege the crime was an honour killing, orchestrated because the father believed his daughters had shamed the family by taking boyfriends and dressing in revealing clothes.

    The Shafias, natives of Afghanistan, moved to Canada in 2007 and settled in Montreal. Shafia is a wealthy businessman.


  10. ‘I didn’t help kill them,’ mother accused of murdering teen daughters told police

    By Rob Tripp, National Post November 8, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — A Montreal woman accused, along with her husband and son, of killing her three daughters and her husband’s first wife did not confess to the crimes during a gruelling, six-hour interrogation.

    On Tuesday morning, jurors watched the final hour of the videotaped interview of Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41.

    “I didn’t help Shafia in killing them, believe me,” Yahya told Insp. Shahin Mehdizadeh, referring to her husband, Mohammad Shafia, 58.

    Mehdizadeh is an RCMP officer who was brought in to help Kingston police in their investigation of the deaths because he speaks Yahya’s native language.

    Yahya, Shafia, and their son, Hamed, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty.

    Their murder trial was abruptly halted last week, in the midst of the playing of the video, when Shafia was hospitalized. He underwent a surgical procedure at a Kingston hospital and the trial resumed Tuesday.

    The bodies of Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found inside a car that was discovered on June 30, 2009, at the bottom of a shallow canal in Kingston. The accused were arrested three weeks later.

    Yahya offered what seemed to be incriminating statements at various times, telling the officer that she and her two co-accused were at the isolated spot where the victims were found early on the morning of June 30. The family had said previously that they didn’t know what happened to the victims and speculated they died in a joyride that ended tragically.

    Near the end of the interrogation, Yahya backtracked, saying she had not eaten or slept in the past day.

    “I can’t talk with you any more,” she said. “I have become confused. I don’t know what I am saying.”

    Yahya told the officer not to tell her husband what she had told him but wouldn’t explain why she asked this.

    “It may (have) happened or may not had happened,” she told Mehdizadeh. “It could have been just my imagination.”

    Yahya earlier told the policeman that she was at the canal and heard the sound of the car going into the water. She said she became hysterical and passed out.

    The interrogator pressed her, relentlessly accusing her of lying.

    “Some of (my answers) have been lie,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview.

    Yahya said she was scared, but would not say why.

    The interrogation video also offered insight into the police theory that the victims were somehow incapacitated, perhaps with poison, before the car was pushed into the canal.

    Yahya said she didn’t know anything when the officer suggested the victims could not have been awake when the car plunged into the water.

    “Have you killed them?” Mehdizadeh asked.

    “No,” Yahya replied.

    “Hamed has killed them?”

    “No,” she answered.

    “Shafia has killed them?”

    “No, I don’t know,” Yahya said.

    Jurors will also see a videotape of the same officer interrogating Shafia.


  11. Dead teens wanted ‘to adapt ourselves like Canadians’

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 8, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — Theirs was such a sweetly small cri du coeur — to wear Western clothing; to go to the library; to have Canadian friends and to venture “outside,” as the wider world beyond the family yoke was called within the household. As the eldest of the girls, Zainab Shafia, once told a relative, “I don’t want [to wear] the veil.” When the family lived in Dubai, she explained, the girls and women in the family used to don it. But, she told her relative, “This is a different country. When we live in this country, we want to adapt ourselves like Canadians.”

    The man now testifying at the trial of Zainab’s accused killers — which is to say, her parents and brother — can’t be identified. His name is protected by a publication ban until his evidence is complete. But his testimony on the witness stand as the trial resumed Tuesday after a brief delay was both poignant and horrifying...
    The relative testifying told Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and a jury that mere weeks before the Nissan with its cargo of death was discovered, Mr. Shafia told him in a phone conversation that he wanted to “put her [Zainab] in the water, to drown her.” “Why would he want Zainab killed?” prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis asked. Quoting Mr. Shafia, the witness said, “She is a stubborn lady, she doesn’t listen to me. She goes to the library for the Internet. She goes outside.” He referred to his oldest daughter, the man said, as “a prostitute, a whore. Ugly words.”

    He said he believes Mr. Shafia was trying to inflame his emotions, appeal to him as a fellow Afghan man, to enlist his help in the “murder plan.” He wasn’t asked by Mr. Laarhuis to speculate on the alleged motive for throwing the other girls and his first wife into the lethal mix, but Mr. Shafia’s lawyer, Peter Kemp, did invite him to talk about a broader motive.

    “The motive was clear,” the relative replied. First, he said, as the eldest girl, Zainab was “a very bright lady, able to defend her rights,” a leader within the family, and Mr. Shafia didn’t want her siblings to follow her example. And little Geeti, he said, “If she was not killed, she was a very good witness. She would have told you, like a nightingale.” The same held true for Sahar and Ms. Amir, he said, and Ms. Amir also wanted to divorce him and had asked for a $50,000 settlement too.

    “In countries like Dubai, Pakistan, Afghanistan,” the man said, wonderingly, “all the women, all the children and youth, in Afghanistan, how do they live? “But when they come to North America, it can be felt,” he said, meaning freedom. “A child comes to this part of the world, he goes outside — he learns. He sees what are the rights, and whatever is against the human laws.”

    ... The relative was so upset, he said, by Mr. Shafia’s confiding his plan for Zainab that he hung up the phone and ended the call. He also warned another relative and Ms. Yahya, telling them what Mr. Shafia had told him and urging them to be careful, and particularly to avoid going on trips to places near water.

    According to the relative, there was only “one person, Mr. Shafia, taking decisions” in that family. He himself wasn’t allowed to hug — or even shake hands with — Ms. Yahya. “Think about it!” he snapped: He was a relative, but “I had no permission to shake her hand.”

    read the full article at:

  12. ‘Honour killing’ witness has no record of murder-recruitment call

    By Rob Tripp, National Post November 9, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — The man who said Mohammad Shafia tried to recruit him to help murder a daughter said he can’t produce any phone records to back his claim and he doesn’t know exactly when the call happened. “It doesn’t mean that I didn’t talk to Mr. Shafia,” Fazil Javid said on the witness stand Wednesday morning, under questioning by defence lawyer David Crowe, who represents accused killer Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41.

    Javid lives in Sweden and is a brother of Yahya.
    He could not be named, under a temporary court order that protected his identity until he completed his testimony. Javid finished testifying Wednesday morning. He appeared Tuesday as a prosecution witness in the case against Yahya, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son Hamed, 20. The Montreal residents each are charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty to killing three Shafia sisters and Shafia’s first wife. The victims were found dead in a submerged car in the Rideau Canal in Kingston more than two years ago.

    Javid testified Wednesday that he spoke to Shafia on the telephone in late May or early June, while Shafia was in Dubai on business. He had hoped to intervene in a family problem with daughter Zainab, who had run away from home and wanted to marry a young Pakistani man, against everyone’s advice.

    Javid said Shafia immediately asked Javid to invite Zainab, her mother and another sibling to Sweden where they could go to a body of water and have a barbecue and then throw Zainab in the water and drown her.

    Crowe asked Javid why he said, during testimony at a preliminary inquiry, that the phone call was in early May.

    “I might have been mixed up,” he said.

    Javid said he was at work in his pizza shop in the Swedish city of Oxelosund when he had the phone conversation in which Shafia exhorted him to help in his murder plot. He said he used a phone card to make the call and his phone service provider said it was unable to provide any record of the call.

    Javid said he was so upset by what Shafia said that he had to see a psychologist for counseling. After the Shafia call, he spoke to Zainab but didn’t tell her about the plot.

    “You believed [Zainab] was in danger of being killed by her father?” asked defence lawyer Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed.

    “Yes,” Javid replied.

    “You spoke to her directly on the phone after hearing about the plan and you didn’t say a word to her about it?” McCann wondered.

    “No,” Javid replied.

    He said he called his sister and a brother who lives in Montreal about the scheme.

    After Javid’s testimony, jurors began watching a videotape of an interrogation of Shafia by an RCMP officer.

    Early in the tape, Shafia refers to his children as “liars” but he denies that he killed them. Court adjourned for lunch after jurors had seen only a few minutes of the interrogation.

    Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti Shafia, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a sunken car in June 2009. Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in Afghanistan.

    Prosecutors allege the crime was an honour killing, orchestrated because the father believed his daughters had shamed the family by taking boyfriends and dressing in revealing clothes.

    The Shafias, natives of Afghanistan, moved to Canada in 2007.


  13. Accused ‘honour killing’ father like a six-year-old with chutzpah

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 9, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — Picture this: Mohammad Shafia was being interrogated by an RCMP officer who had caught him flat-footed in a couple of whoppers, not that this is a stunning achievement, given Mr. Shafia’s quirky relationship with the truth. Still, Mr. Shafia had just finished telling this officer, Inspector Shahin Mehdizadeh, that Rona Amir Mohammad was his cousin, and before that his friend, and denied ever being married to her. The inspector then slid over a picture taken of their wedding at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel.

    “No,” said Mr. Shafia. “This is it, was her birthday or something. This is not marriage. I haven’t married her.” That is what Insp. Mehdizadeh’s two-hour interview with Mr. Shafia was like, the day after his arrest in the June 30, 2009, drowning deaths of his three daughters and Ms. Amir. For the inspector, it was akin to dealing with a particularly obtuse six-year-old.

    Essentially, the inspector would show Mr. Shafia the equivalent of pictures of a broken cookie jar; of Mr. Shafia standing with the intact jar, grinning as he pulled out cookies; of Mr. Shafia eating the cookies therein; and conclude with the equivalent of a photo of Mr. Shafia licking cookie crumbs from his lips while holding the broken jar. And Insp. Mehdizadeh would say, “You broke this jar; you ate these cookies: We can prove it.”

    And Mr. Shafia would say, à la the great Shaggy tune of a decade ago, wherein a wayward young man was caught by his girl in flagrante delicto on the bathroom floor with another girl, “It wasn’t me.”

    Now, none of these exchanges would happen as directly as this fictitious example. The two men – Insp. Mehdizadeh, who was born and raised in Iran, and Mr. Shafia, who is from Afghanistan – were speaking in Farsi, a kissing cousin of Dari, and these are languages so flowery and circuitous they render the Romantic ones, like French and Italian, crass by comparison, and English a language only for brutes. But, at some point, Insp. Mehdizadeh would get to the point, and at some further point, Mr. Shafia would say no and offer his denial. Insp. Mehdizadeh would then call Mr. Shafia a liar, and Mr. Shafia would deny it and say, “I don’t lie” or “We don’t lie” or say, “No.” Indeed, in one particularly delightful bit, having said “No” dozens and dozens of times, Mr. Shafia then solemnly declared, “I haven’t said no. The word no is not in my mouth.” ...
    ... Insp. Mehdizadeh would suggest that perhaps the girls had not been good girls, the inference being Mr. Shafia might have been driven to act out of concern for his honour, and Mr. Shafia would reply by singing their praises.

    “For us,” he said once, “they were pure and sinless kids. They were our children.” In the next minute, mind, he said, “The kids were lying too much,” lying in particular about his alleged beating of them. It was as though whatever Mr. Shafia said in breath A bore no relationship to what he said in breath B, and that he expected no one else should pay any attention to the fact that A and B were jarringly at odds with one another.

    Early on in the interview, the inspector, trying to impress upon Mr. Shafia how seriously the police in Canada took murder, even the murder of girls, said, “This is a country that has law….This is a country that has respect to everyone and life has value.” And Mr. Shafia said, in his solemn way, that he knew that. Why, he added, “I have come to this country for its laws.”

    There should be, but undoubtedly isn’t, a Dari word for chutzpah.

    read the full article at:


  14. Accused father spoke of wanting to kill eldest daughter, relative testifies

    By Rob Tripp, National Post November 10, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — The murder trial of three Montreal residents has heard from a second male relative of the family who claims Mohammad Shafia talked of wanting to kill his eldest daughter Zainab.

    “He said, ‘I’m not happy … and she didn’t do a good thing, if I was there I would have killed her,’ ” the man testified Thursday morning.

    A court order bars publication of his name until he completes his testimony.

    Shafia sisters Zainab, 19; Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a Nissan Sentra submerged in a canal in Kingston on June 30, 2009. Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in Afghanistan.

    Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

    They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing. The witness is a relative of Yahya.

    The witness said he was trying to help the Shafia family sort out a problem with Zainab, who wanted to marry a young Pakistani man.

    He had a telephone conversation with Shafia, he said, while Shafia was in Dubai on business, to talk about Zainab’s decision to marry the Pakistani man. Shafia said his daughter “wanted to dishonour me” and he called her a “whore,” the man testified.

    “She is a dirty curse to me,” the man said, quoting Shafia.

    The man said he spoke to Zainab about her impulsive decision to marry and she said she was constantly mistreated and belittled at home by her father.

    “The only reason that I’m marrying is to get the revenge (for) the cruelty I suffer (from) my father,” the witness said, repeating what he claimed Zainab told him.

    Earlier this week, a brother of Yahya testified that Shafia tried to recruit him to help drown Zainab.


  15. A family at war over Afghan past, Canadian present

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 10, 2011

    ... Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their precious eldest son Hamed — were in Kingston, being taken to the scene of the presumed tragedy by Kingston Police. The police by now were highly suspicious of the clumsy tale the trio had told them – it involved a fake car accident, a lot of swooning by Ms. Yahya, and a mysterious drive in the dark by the four women — and had planted a bug in the Pontiac Montana while the family was inside the police station. They had led them to the locks where a detective pretended to spot a small surveillance camera that had been put there for this very purpose, and shared the exciting “news” with the family. The trio bit, and on their way back to Kingston and then to Montreal, their minimal conversation – it was as though they were almost spooked into silence but couldn’t quite stop themselves — was markedly less benign.

    Ms. Yahya: “There was no camera, they’re lying.” Mr. Shafia: “Huh?” Ms. Yayha: “There was no camera. If there had been a camera they would have taken that out first thing on the very first day.” Mr. Shafia: “Yeah.” Ms. Yahya: “It’s been 20 days now.” ...
    ...In another exchange a few minutes later, Ms. Yahya was back at it: “There was no camera over there. I looked around, there wasn’t any. If, God forbid God forbid, there was one in that little room [an apparent reference to a building at the locks], all three of us would have been recorded.” Mr. Shafia replied, “No, had there been one there, they would have checked it first thing and they would have held you to account that night.” Later still, Mr. Shafia said to his wife, “That night there was no electricity there, everywhere was pitch darkness. You remember, Tooba?” ...

    These brief excerpts from the first of the wiretaps were played Thursday at the trio’s trial on four charges each of first-degree murder. They came as a sobering end to a day marked by the colourful testimony of Ms. Yahya’s uncle, Latif Hyderi, an old muhjahideen from the days of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Now 65, still handsome and tough as nails, Mr. Hyderi had some important evidence to give – chiefly, that during the family crisis that spring over Zainab, who was so desperate to get out from under her father’s control she agreed to marry two different boys, he had spoken to Mr. Shafia about it.

    The father, who was in Dubai on business when the crisis erupted, was angry that Zainab was planning to marry (and she did, for less than a day) a Pakistani boy and told Mr. Hyderi, “She wants to dishonour me” and then called her words so bad he apologized to “the souls of those martyrs [the dead girls]” before using them in court – “a whore. A dirty, a dirty woman.” Mr. Shafia told him, he said, to proceed with the marriage arrangements – to “call a mullah for this dirty lady, to get this girl out of the house” was what he said – but once it happened, Mr. Shafia told him “If I was there, I would have killed her.” Mr. Hyderi told him: “I said, she is your daughter, your child! Why did you marry your second wife so you could have children?” And Mr. Shafia replied, “I’m not happy. She didn’t do a good thing. If I was there, I would have killed her.”

    Mr. Hyderi admitted he served four years in jail in Afghanistan under the Russians. He was open about Afghan culture – ... He said he tried once to explain to Hamed how it was in Afghanistan and how it was in Canada. ... “We are still following the old culture of Afghanistan…your sisters can’t watch TV, go to parties…they’re like political prisoners. “One day,” he warned, “it will implode.” ...

    read the full article at:


  16. These young women are worth fighting for

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 11, 2011

    One day last week at the trial of the Shafia family in Kingston, Ont., as court was hearing a relative describe the small freedoms the teenage girls in that family so hungered for – Canadian friends, makeup and clothes, the company of boys — I found there were tears streaming down my face. They had wanted so bloody little. The thought that their modest desires could have cost them their lives – and that is the central allegation at trial, that in their ordinary rebellion they had offended the family honour and paid for it with their lives – was egregious enough. That this had happened, allegedly, in Canada was intolerable.

    They were Afghan girls. Only the oldest two – Zainab and Sahar, respectively 19 and 17 – were actually born in that hard country, but as the jurors in the trial of the girls’ parents and brother have heard, all the Shafia children were raised in the Afghan way. There’s something to be said for this; Afghans are of necessity among the toughest and most resilient people on the planet. But their society and culture is also tribal, primitive and misogynist: As an uncle testified this week, boys have their freedom, but girls do not. An Afghan proverb puts it this way: A girl is the property of others.

    The family left Afghanistan in 1992 but, except for a short stint in Australia, until they arrived in Canada in 2007, they lived in the Middle East, in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, where it is easier to raise good, obedient Muslim daughters. But, as with all the children of immigrants, once in Canada, once enrolled in mixed schools, the Shafia girls wanted nothing more than to be normal Canadian kids; instead, according to two relatives who have testified at trial, they lived like political prisoners.

    Zainab, Sahar and their little sister Geeti, just 13, fought ferociously for their small freedoms: The older girls had boyfriends; Geeti, acting out as girls whose sexuality is utterly denied and oppressed often do, was failing at school, wearing revealing clothing and was once caught shoplifting. Geeti made no secret of the fact she wanted out of that house, whatever it took; Sahar disclosed to school officials, and later to Montreal Police, that there was violence in the home. Zainab ran away to a women’s shelter, and only returned home when her mother promised she could marry – her only sure ticket out of her father’s control. Some of their kids once even begged a stranger on the street to call 911 for them, they were so afraid of their father’s wrath, this when Zainab had run away. Quebec youth protection services twice investigated the family, and twice closed the file.

    So there were these Afghan girls, with just a taste of freedom and wanting more, fighting valiantly and all but shrieking from the rooftops. And who was fighting with them? Few, it appears from the evidence heard at trial, in civilian Canada.

    So it was that on Remembrance Day, I went about 80 klicks out of Kingston to Brockville, where one of my favourite militia units is based, the Brockville Rifles. One of the smallest reserve units in the country, and as under-funded and under-loved as are all reserve regiments, the Rifles nonetheless sent about 30 soldiers – women among them, of course, including women in the infantry — to Kandahar during the five years of Canada’s combat mission there. ...

    read the full article at:


  17. Afghanistan mother and daughter stoned and shot dead

    BBC News November 11, 2011

    A group of armed men have stoned and shot dead a woman and her daughter in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, security officials have told the BBC.

    The officials blamed the Taliban, who they said had accused the women of "moral deviation and adultery".

    The police said two men had been arrested in connection with the murder.

    The attack was only 300m from the governor's office in Ghazni city, which is on a list of places to be transferred to Afghan security control.

    Taliban grip
    The incident happened on Thursday in the Khawaja Hakim area of Ghazni city, where the family lived.

    The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says it is close to the governor's office, the police chief's office and a Western-backed Provincial Reconstruction Team.

    Security officials said armed men entered the house where the young widow lived with her daughter and took them out to the yard, where they were initially stoned and then shot dead.

    "Neighbours did not help or inform the authorities on time," an official said.

    Officials said a number of religious leaders in the city had been issuing fatwas (Islamic religious edicts) asking people to report any one who was "involved in adultery".

    In October last year, a woman accused of murdering her mother-in-law was killed by the Taliban in Ghazni.

    Ghazni has seen an upsurge in violence in recent years.

    Strategically located on the route between Kabul and Kandahar, the province was once a centre of trade.

    Ghazni city is on the list for the second tranche of areas to be transferred from Nato to Afghan control but critics say the government is struggling to secure it.


  18. ‘Shit on their graves’: accused ‘honour killing’ father caught on secret recordings

    by Rob Tripp, National Post November 14, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — The Montreal man accused along with his wife and son of killing four people, including three of his daughters, was captured on secret police wiretaps talking often and angrily about his lost honour and disparagingly about his dead children.

    Jurors at the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia have now heard most of the secret recordings made by police in a four-day span in 2009, just before Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, were arrested and charged.

    They are each on trial on four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty.

    “They’re gone now … shit on their graves,” Shafia says in a recording of a conversation between him, his wife and son that was captured inside the family’s minivan on July 20, 2009.

    “I am happy and my conscience is clear,” he says in a recording made the following day, while he and his two family members were inside the van. “They haven’t done good and God punished them.”

    Several times during the recordings, Shafia is heard complaining that his daughters dressed in revealing clothes and had boyfriends.

    “Damn their boyfriends,” Shafia says, in a recording in the van on July 18. “To hell with them and their boyfriends … filthy and rotten children.”

    Sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti Shafia, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a Nissan Sentra submerged in a canal in Kingston on June 30, 2009. Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in Afghanistan.

    “I know [Zainab] was already done, but I wish two others weren’t,” the accused mother says, in a recording inside the van from July 20.

    “No, Tooba, they messed up,” Shafia replies. “There was no other way.”

    Shafia says the girls were “treacherous” and betrayed Islam, dishonouring the family.

    “Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows … nothing is more dear to me than my honour,” Shafia says, speaking to his son, Hamed, in the July 21 recording. “Let’s leave our destiny to God and may God never make me, you or your mother honourless. I don’t accept this dishonour, so don’t think about it anymore.”

    In one of the recordings, Shafia tells his wife and son that they were not a strict family but “kind of liberal” and that nothing he did amounted to “meddling” in the lives of his daughters.

    The recordings, which captured the family speaking in their native language, Dari, were translated into English.


  19. Secret ‘honour killing’ trial recordings reveal father’s rage at ‘treacherous’ daughters

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 14, 2011

    ... Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their oldest son Hamed may not have been the sharpest knives in the drawer — even after their arrests on July 22, 2009, as they sat in a police car waiting to be driven from Montreal to Kingston, they couldn’t keep their lips zipped — but they surely rank among the cruelest. Once, for instance, Yahya appeared to be minimally ruing the deaths of her two youngest daughters, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13.

    “I know Zainab was already done,” she said flatly of the 19-year-old who had run away two months before her death, “but I wish two others weren’t.” That mild hint of regret or self-doubt launched Shafia into one of his most vicious screeds. “No, Tooba, they were treacherous,” he snapped. “They were treacherous. They betrayed both themselves and us. Like this woman standing on the side of the road and if you stop the car, she would go with you anywhere.”

    To his wife’s complaint that it was hard, he said, “It isn’t harder than watching them every hour with lunda (a Dari expression for lover). For that reason whenever I see those pictures (cellphone shots the dead girls took of themselves in underwear or with their boyfriends), I am consoled. I say to myself, ‘You did well.’ Would they come back to life a hundred times, for you to do the same again.”


    Monday, Ontario Superior Court Robert Maranger and a jury listened to police wiretaps of the trio’s conversations in the days leading up to and including the day of their arrests. ... ...These conversations were what the family members said to one another in what they either imagined were private moments or believed were impenetrable chats, because they spoke in the language of their native Afghanistan.

    Collectively, the conversations show a shattering lack of any emotion other than rage at the girls for dishonouring the family name. Any suggestion of kindness or empathy is reserved for the surviving children — there are but a few of these — or for themselves, as when Shafia carried on about how much the parents had done for their children.

    “. . . We subjected ourselves to hardships,” he railed, “we took on drudgery for them, we (used to) wash their shit and pee . . . after all should this have happened? No one does this . . . The only thing we inhibited them from was lundabazi (a Dari phrase for promiscuity), that was the only wrong we did them.”

    In another intercepted conversation in the family van the day before, Shafia examined his conduct as a father and pronounced himself smashing. Why, he told his wife, “Tooba, we were free. We weren’t confined. We were not a strict family, we were kind of liberal family.” The jurors have already heard from two of Yahya’s relatives that the girls lived “like political prisoners.” But Shafia could find no wrong in his own conduct.

    “What excess had we committed, that they found so rear up and as Iranians say, undressed themselves in front of boys? . . . God curse their graduation! Curse of God on both of them, on their kind. God’s curse on them for generation! May the Devil shit on their graves! Is that what a daughter should be? Would (a daughter) be such a whore?”


    The wiretaps also reveal the breadth of the strange dysfunction of this family, who physically left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived abroad for years before coming to Canada in 2007, but who spiritually never really left Kabul far behind.

    The day before the trio were arrested, one of the siblings phoned Hamed about 3 one morning. In that whispered, desperate conversation, Hamed tried to tell the other children that the end might be approaching. The sibling’s answer? “If nothing happens, the best thing is everyone suicide.”

    read the full article at:


  20. Brother in ‘honour killing’ trial took keen interest in photos of his dead sisters

    By Christie Blatchford, National Post
    November 15, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — In the morning it was starkly ghoulish, with Hamed Shafia, in a four-hour-long interview on the day of his arrest for murder, livening up only when the officer interrogating him brandished pictures of his dead sisters and his father’s first wife.

    “Can I . . . ?” he asked, alertly eyeing the photographs in Kingston Police Sgt. Mike Boyles’ hand.

    “No, you know what?” Boyles replied. “Why should you look at them if you can’t look at me and tell the truth . . . Why would they (meaning Hamed) want to see them (the dead women) like this? You can’t even tell the truth of how they ended up like that.”

    Nonetheless, Boyles handed over the pictures, which showed the bodies of two of Hamed’s three sisters — Zainab, Sahar and Geeti — and his father’s first wife Rona Amir Mohammad, as they were recovered from a black Nissan found submerged at the Kingston Mills locks on June 30, 2009.

    “So it’s the time when they remove them?” asked Hamed, who is now 20 and then just 18.

    “Yeah, this is them being brought out of the water, yeah Hamed,” Boyles said.

    “How come she’s bleeding?” Hamed asked. He didn’t appear to be disturbed, merely interested, as if he were a college student on a tour of a morgue.

    Boyles explained, not unkindly, that the girl wasn’t bleeding, but that what he was seeing was the result of blood pooling in the body, as it does at death.

    “There are only two sisters there,” Hamed said, obviously keen on seeing the third picture as well.

    The detective didn’t hand it over immediately, but continued banging his head against the wall that was this boy for a while longer.

    Then he said, “Did you want to see these again?”

    “After this, we’re done?” Hamed asked.

    They chatted a bit more — Boyles asking if Hamed felt badly about what happened to his sisters, Hamed saying that, of course, he did.

    At last, he leaned in and took the pictures.

    “The position they were that time . . .” he began.

    Boyles told him drowning was not a peaceful death, that it was horrible. The news, if it was news to him, washed over the boy and disappeared.

    “Like the position you’re in (when you drown), that position you come out? You get stuck in that position, I guess?” he asked.

    “Sure Hamed,” Boyles replied. “I’m not a doctor.”

    So that was the morning session, this boy with his unseemly interest in seeing the bodies of his sisters.

    Later, came a witness — he can’t be identified yet — who brought a welcome measure of unintended hilarity to the proceedings.

    This fellow, a fellow Afghan and former student at Queen’s, was hired as an interpreter by Shafia’s lawyer, Peter Kemp, and, unknown to Kemp, also by Shafia to re-investigate the case, or, as the witness put it, to “try to uncover the truth.”

    In the course of this, he managed to review all the disclosure prosecutors had made to the defence, and show the accused trio, as he said, “what police had against them.” He visited each in prison, immediately pronounced Shafia (who famously cursed his dead daughters as whores and prayed the devil would foul their graves) a deeply religious person incapable of lying, let alone worse, and told Hamed “just speaking with you for five minutes is enough for me to know you are not that kind of guy.”

    The witness was a one-man show: He did imitations of Yahya’s strident voice and heavy accent from the Parwan area north of Kabul, and, as he gravely listened to his own recorded chat with Hamed, which he later duly presented to the police so “they could learn from their mistakes, reconsider their decision and discharge” the Kingston trio, he compulsively made notes “to help the court.”

    Praise Allah water isn’t the only thing that seeks its own level.


  21. Accused in canal deaths says he hit car by accident

    CBC News November 18, 2011

    Hamed Shafia admitted to hitting the car containing his three sisters and father’s first wife and watching it sink into the water in Kingston, according to testimony heard in court Friday.

    Shafia, 21, previously told police in a videotaped interrogation that he had no idea what had happened to his sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti,13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, who were found dead inside the car submerged in the Rideau Canal in 2009.

    Hamed and his parents, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and Mohammad Shafia, 58, are charged with four counts of first-degree murder each in the deaths.

    They have pleaded not guilty.

    Moosa Hadi, who was hired as a translator by the Shafia family after their arrest, testified in a Kingston courtroom that Hamed admitted his Lexus accidentally hit the black Nissan containing the four women and the car went into the water.

    In a recorded conversation played for the jury, Hamed told Hadi he dangled a rope over the ledge of the canal to check for signs of life.

    After getting no response, Hamed drove home and didn't tell anyone because he thought he would get in trouble for letting his sister drive without a licence.

    Hadi made the audio recording of Hamed's story so he could present it to police, believing it would convince them of the error of their ways and they would drop all the charges. Instead, he was called to testify as a Crown witness.

    Believes accused are innocent
    Hadi, an engineering student, said that after speaking with all three accused, he believes they are innocent.

    He told reporters outside the court he initially offered his services to the family because he learned they were having difficulty communicating in their native Dari.

    He later got permission to review the prosecution's evidence and said he saw nothing that implicated Yahya or the elder Shafia and that Hamed's involvement was merely accidental.

    He met with the family members almost three months after the deaths and shared some of that evidence with them.

    “By that time, I was convinced that both of them didn’t know at all anything,” he said outside court, referring to Yahya and Mohammad Shafia.

    The events detailed by the Hadi represents the third scenario from the accused trio about what happened that night.

    Immediately after the incident, Shafia and Yahya spoke with Montreal media and said one of the girls took the car keys to get clothes out of the vehicle and that was the last time anyone heard from any of the victims.

    The trial continues Monday.


  22. Suitor of eldest daughter in ‘honour killing’ trial told to treat her like a ‘stranger,’ court hears

    By Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 21, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — A teenage Montreal girl who was allegedly murdered, along with two sisters and her stepmother, by her brother and parents, warned a school suitor that her brother could not know about their friendship.

    “Let me explain the rules of my friendship, first, be aware of my bro, then if (you) sometimes wanna talk, come in the library and if my brother is around, act like complete strangers,” Zainab Shafia, wrote, in an email sent Feb. 16, 2008, to the young man.

    Two days earlier, he had sent her a card on Valentine’s Day, expressing romantic interest.

    Zainab’s brother Hamed attended the same school.

    The witness dated and later married Zainab, although their union was annulled one day after the wedding.

    His name cannot be published because of a court order that protects his identity until he completes his testimony at the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia, 58, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20.

    The three are accused of murdering Zainab, 19, and her sisters, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife.

    They have pleaded not guilty. The victims were found dead inside a car discovered submerged in the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009.

    Prosecutors allege it was an honour killing, orchestrated by the father because he was angry over the conduct of the victims, particularly Zainab, and believed they had shamed him and their family.

    The young man was on the witness stand for just five minutes Monday morning before the trial adjourned.

    He read from a document handed to him by Crown lawyer Laurie Lacelle. The witness said the document included the text of Zainab’s first email to him in 2008.

    In it, she thanked the young man for the Valentine and explained that she would call him while they were at school, using a friend’s cellphone.

    “I don’t want to give (Hamed) the slightest idea that we’re friends,” she wrote.

    Defence lawyer Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed, rose to express concern about the document that was being tendered as an exhibit.

    “That document, your honour, was produced for the first time this morning,” McCann said. “It’s not been covered by any ruling with respect to admissibility of hearsay and I’m not sure how that is being filed at this point.”

    Lacelle asked that the jury be excused.

    Discussions that took place in the absence of the jurors cannot be reported. The trial adjourned for lunch.


  23. Zainab Shafia’s doomed ‘amazing love story’

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 21, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — By almost any standards, but particularly those of modern teenagers and young adults, Zainab Shafia’s relationship with the poor young fellow now in the witness stand was as stunted and utterly sad as her life. ...

    She later told him that Hamed – he was a year her junior but of course, as a male, under the Stone Age zeitgeist the family brought with them from their native Afghanistan, treated as Zainab’s clear superior — told her she wouldn’t be allowed to go to school again until her parents returned to Canada, whereupon they could decide.

    Only almost a year afterward, when the couple resumed contact, did the young suitor learn that Zainab had been confined to her room during much of that time, allowed out only to get something to eat.

    By the time she contacted him again, she was back at school, in a fashion – it was a French school near the Shafia home (Zainab’s French wasn’t good), and conveniently, Hamad, the family pit bull, was also attending.

    As Zainab told the young man in a Dec. 5, 2008, email, “I go to skool in da morning and at nite I wear hijab, at nite not in da morning coz ma bro is there. I wear at nite coz I go to a course at nite with him sux.”

    Still, in the ways that inventive girls have always found, “I changed the way I wear hijab its even more better than be-4. I take out a bit of ma hair and I tie the hijab at back and put on some big circle earrings….i’m sure u will like it.”

    Their friendship began at the Montreal school they – and Hamed, of course — attended in 2008. The young man sent her a Valentine’s Day card and a note saying “I kind of like her and stuff like that.”

    Two days later, the beautiful girl replied by email. She thanked him for “the great v card,” then said, in her up-front manner, “Let me explain the rules of my friendship.

    “Firstly, be aware of my bro.

    “Then if sometimes wanna talk come in the library. And if my bro is around act like complete stranger.

    “I will call u when we r at skool from the public telephone…I’ll come near ur locker than we’ll talk if my bro is not around coz I don’t want to give him the slightest idea that we r friends.”

    The bodies of the three girls, then respectively 19, 17 and 13, and Ms. Amir, who was 53, were found June 30, 2009, in a black Nissan found at the bottom of the Kingston Mills locks just outside this city.

    The end of the relationship was poignant.

    After it ended, in one of the last emails Zainab sent him, on June 2, 2009, she wrote in part, “seriously I’m missing u tooooooo but well one thing I’m really happy about is that….even one day if sum thing happens to us like dead I wnt die with out my dream being full filled. I love u much n thnx 4 loving me the same way…..”.

    She asked him to send her all his pictures, so she could make a book of their “amazing love story 2gether,” and told him, “may b one day if we meet wen we r all old then I will give it too u to see.”

    It was this behaviour – talking to boys; striking sexy poses for their cell phone cameras; balking at the hijab – that prosecutors alleged in their opening statement was the motive for what they call a mass “honour killing.”

    It was also this behaviour which, prosecutors say, led to Mr. Shafia referring on police wiretaps to his dead daughters as “whores.”

    It appears, from expert evidence also heard Monday, that just hours before her death, as the family drove through Toronto, Sahar took pictures of the SkyDome and CN Tower, all lit up, from the moving car.

    As close to the landmarks of the big city was also as close to getting “old” as any of those girls came.

    read the full article at:


  24. Shafia trial hears 911 call about threats and beatings


    Two teenage sisters who were found dead in a submerged car in June 2009, told Montreal police officers 10 weeks earlier that they had been slapped and punched by their father and brother and faced death threats, a murder trial heard Tuesday. The claims, which elicited gasps in the courtroom, were presented through an agreed statement of facts ...
    ... Lacelle said all of the lawyers agreed that if Choquette had appeared, she would have testified that she and a partner were dispatched to the Shafia home in the Montreal borough of St. Leonard that Friday afternoon because four children had called to report that their lives were in danger. The officers found the four Shafia children on a street corner near their home and took them to the apartment where they lived on rue Bonnivet.

    Geeti Shafia, who was 13, told the officers about an incident a week earlier when her father and brother were angry that she and her siblings came home late from a trip to a shopping centre.
    "She told police that her father had pulled her hair and hit her on the face," Lacelle said, reading the statement of facts aloud. "She told police that her brother Hamed hit her in the eye with his fist. "Geeti also told police that her father often threatened that he was going to kill them."

    Choquette did not see any marks on Geeti but saw a mark near the right eye of one of her sisters.
    "Sahar told police that she had been slapped by Hamed," Lacelle said, reading the statement to the jurors. "She also told them that she had seen the violence to which her siblings had been subjected."

    The children said that they called police on April 17 because they were walking home from school and got a phone call from their mother Tooba, who told them that their 19-year-old sister Zainab had run away from home.

    "Their mother was reported to be afraid for their lives because the oldest daughter Zainab had left the house and they did not know where she was," the statement says. "The children were concerned about the reaction of their father to this information."

    Earlier Tuesday, jurors heard that Zainab had fled to a women's shelter that day with the help of her boyfriend Ammar Wahid, to escape her domineering father. Sahar, who was 17, and Geeti told police that they had seen their father shake Zainab by her hair because he did not like her boyfriend, according to the statement. "Sahar and Geeti told police that they wanted to leave home because there is a lot of violence in the home," according to the statement. "They said they were afraid of their father."

    Choquette would have testified that, as she was interviewing the children individually outside, their father arrived home and the demeanour of the siblings changed. The children stopped talking, some were crying and at least one of them said that what she had said earlier was not true. Choquette called child and family services.

    When a child and family services worker arrived at the house that evening at 9 p.m., he spoke to all of the children, the father and mother and Hamed together in the living room. The worker suggested that the investigation should continue the following week. The children were left in the house. The children did not make any negative comments about their mother. The following Monday, Det. Laurie-Ann Lefebvre and a child and family service worker interviewed three of the children at the school they attended. ...
    The officer concluded that she did not have enough information to file any criminal charges. "The file was closed," she said. ...

    read the full article at:


  25. Safety net missed Shafia family fall

    Christie Blatchford, National Post November 22, 2011

    In April of 2009, the Shafia family of Montreal was pretty much disintegrating and not doing it quietly, either. Like youngsters who hide in plain view, the messy fracturing of the Afghan-Canadian household was occurring in the open.

    One daughter, 19-year-old Zainab, had run away from home, and her brother Hamed twice called 911 to demand her disappearance be investigated.

    And about 4 p.m. that day, as this news was relayed to four of Zainab’s siblings as they headed home from school, they were sufficiently filled with dread that they asked a stranger on the street to call police.

    Three 911 calls about one household in a single day — including a naked plea by four adolescents — was enough to rouse even the beast that is the vaunted Canadian social safety net. ...

    It is not the question before Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and the jury, but it may be one worth asking: How well did the safety net serve those girls and their aunt?

    From the evidence heard Tuesday at trial, the answer is not comforting.

    By the following Monday, three days after the rash of 911 calls, no fewer than three different agencies — Montreal Police, Quebec’s child and family services department and a shelter for troubled women — had all been involved, one way or another, with the family.

    In the first instance, the police jumped fast and professionally upon the stranger’s phone call on behalf of the four kids.

    Constable Anne-Marie Choquette and her partner quickly found them ...
    By 6 p.m., Const. Choquette’s supervisor had notified Quebec child and family services; by 9 p.m., a worker had arrived. He spoke to the kids in front of their parents and brother; unsurprisingly, they didn’t talk much, and the one who had recanted continued to recant. The worker decided the investigation should continue the following Monday, and police and worker left the happy family about 11 p.m.

    Const. Choquette “thought there was lots of evidence that might permit her to lay a criminal charge,” but the Quebec protocol of the day apparently was that child and family services should make that decision.

    On April 20, the file landed on the desk of Montreal Detective Laurie-Ann Lefebvre, whose responsibilities then included investigating suspected child-abuse cases. With a social worker from child and family services, as per the protocol, she went to the children’s school, and interviewed the children separately.

    Geeti asked for “immediate placement” with a foster family, Det. Lefebvre said. “She said she had no freedom; she wanted to be like her friends.” Geeti repeated her story of what had happened the week before, but Det. Lefebvre found her “evasive.” ...

    “I did not have any information that a crime was committed,” Det. Lefebvre said in her crisp manner. “So the file was closed.” She sent it on to child protection with no request for “further investigation.”

    Meantime, at the Passages shelter where Zainab had fled, two workers had dealings with the young woman. The first, Jennifer Bumbray ... classified the case as one of “family violence.”

    After three days at the shelter, clients are matched with workers, and Zainab was assigned to Rachel Laberge Malett, but the two had few dealings. Ms. Laberge Malett read her colleague’s notes, knew that Zainab didn’t feel “safe enough” to return to her parents’ home without police accompanying her — a vain effort to retrieve her identification — and that was about it. Zainab left the shelter on May 1 or 2, returning home. Neither worker seemed to know for sure what prompted the change of heart; neither appeared much concerned. ...

    read the full article at:


  26. ‘Let her die’: ‘Honour killing’ trial mother’s reply to daughter’s suicide attempt

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 23, 2011

    If the Kingston Police had handled the investigation of the deaths of three girls and an adult woman whose bodies were discovered on their turf as Montreal school officials and child-protection workers handled the complaints of familial violence and oppression which came their way when all those people were still alive, they would have stopped in their tracks on June 30, 2009.

    But where the nascent child-protection probe was quickly defeated by flat denials, protestations of innocence and cultural barriers, the police not only listened to their growing suspicions, but also conducted a smart, thorough investigation that stands as a model both of cultural sensitivity and stellar police work.

    This is the back story developing at the trial of Mohammad Shafia, 58, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son Hamed. ...

    It was clear, from the collective testimony of school officials and Ms. Rowe, that no one had much doubt these were girls in crisis, that they were eager to help, but stymied by the fact that Sahar and Geeti mostly spoke English, by the way they sobbed out their allegations in one breath and withdrew them the next.

    As vice-principal Nathalie Laramee put it, to one of the defence lawyers, “We did a lot, sir. We went beyond the school role, but there are limits…we knew if we called [the girls’ parents], there would be reprisals. We did what we thought was the right thing….when they tell you ‘I’m afraid of my father, afraid of getting beaten,’ so we are prudent when calling parents.”

    There’s little doubt these officials, and the child-protection worker, felt themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place: The girls were clearly afraid but also paralyzed and rendered cagey and inarticulate by their fear.

    But still and all, nothing so speaks to the inability of institutional Canada to help its newest and most vulnerable citizens as the sugar-bush story.

    In April of 2009, Sahar’s class was slated to go on a sugar-bush expedition one afternoon. Sahar had come in late and was refusing to go.

    Ms. Laramee took her aside and told her that this was part of her “integration into Quebec society,” and that sugaring off was “a proper example of what we live here.”

    The pity is that no one apparently thought to also explain that in this society, girls aren’t expected to tolerate either abuse or the constraints of Stone Age cultural norms; that they don’t have to defer to the males of their family, let alone suffer at their hands.

    This is a small city of about 100,000, relatively homogenous culturally, certainly compared to diverse Montreal.

    When the four bodies were first recovered from the canal, Kingston detectives believed they were dealing with a terrible, tragic accident, and conducted themselves with the family accordingly, treating them with courtesy and respect.

    They believed this would be a routine “sudden death investigation.”

    Yet when these detectives encountered Mr. Shafia’s bald denials, Hamed’s convoluted explanations and Ms. Yahya’s tears and cries of “Believe me!”, their suspicions grew, and they pressed on with their investigation. They didn’t give up.

    They found local interpreters who could speak Dari or Farsi; they dotted every I and crossed every T; they called in experts from the RCMP and the OPP and the Toronto Police when they needed help.

    Forty years after then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau first stood up in the House of Commons to sing the praises and glories of multiculturalism as Canada’s official policy, a small-city police force did a far better job at handling its complexities than a big-city school board and child-welfare agency.

    read the full article at:


  27. ‘She was obviously extremely scared,’ social worker says of meeting with alleged honour killing victim

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 23, 2011

    In the weeks before they were found dead in a submerged car, two teenaged Montreal sisters told teachers and a youth protection worker that they were physically and psychologically abused at home and feared their father and older brother, a murder trial heard Wednesday.

    In one case, a worker from the Batshaw agency concluded, after an investigation in early May 2009, that 17-year-old Sahar Shafia had been abused by her brother and had attempted suicide.

    “She said her brother hit her on two occasions, but on one occasion not hard,” retired Batshaw investigator Jeanne Rowe testified Wednesday morning. The girl also confessed to taking pills.

    “She said, ‘I didn’t want to kill myself, just sad and slept it off,’ ” Rowe said. The worker closed the file after marking it “founded” but took no action because the girl asked to return home to her family.

    “The child was not at risk at the time and she wanted to go home,” Rowe testified.

    Rowe said Sahar told her that her brother hit her arm once and another time, shoved scissors across a table at her, causing scratches on her hand.

    Sahar and her sisters, Zainab, 19, and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a sunken car on June 30, 2009. Three weeks later, police arrested Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son, Hamed, 20, and charged each with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty.

    Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in his native Afghanistan. He brought his two wives and seven children to Canada in 2007 and settled in Montreal.

    Geeti was failing all of her classes, was acting out and was absent dozens of days, according to Nathalie Laramie, a vice-principal at the time at Antoine-de Saint-Exupery high school. She said Sahar also missed many days of school.

    On May 11, Laramie met over the lunch hour with Geeti because she had been expelled from class for being impolite to a teacher.

    “It was a hard lunch hour,” Laramie testified, pausing to hold back her emotions. She said she and a teacher spent an hour and 15 minutes listening to Geeti complain about life at home, while crying.

    “Geeti was asking to get out of the house,” Laramie testified. “I was crying, I was speechless.”

    Laramie’s meeting with Geeti came two days after Rowe met with Sahar for the second time to talk about the allegations of abuse.

    The first time she met with her, on May 7, Sahar denied the allegations.

    “She was obviously extremely scared . . . she was crying profusely,” Rowe testified. The worker explained her role in investigating the allegations and explained that she would also have to speak to Sahar’s parents.

    “Before I could even get to meet with her properly, she said, ‘I don’t want you to meet my parents,’ ” Rowe testified. “She was very, very scared about her parents knowing about the report.”

    Sahar’s parents and her older sister, Zainab, and older brother, Hamed, arrived at the school. Rowe met with each of them individually and asked them to respond to the allegations. She said all of the family members denied that there was any physical violence in the home or that Sahar was being alienated.

    Sahar had told a teacher that her parents had not spoken to her for months and she was being pressured to wear a hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering, and she was being forced to stay out of school.

    Rowe said Hamed denied assaulting Sahar but said he couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to wear a hijab since it was part of their custom.

    Rowe said Mohammad Shafia was very angry. He demanded to know the source of the allegations....

    read the full article at:


  28. Teacher recalls Sahar Shafia for ‘honour killing’ trial: ‘She wished to be free’

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 24, 2011

    Three teachers at a Montreal high school saw troubling signs that Sahar Shafia, one of three teenaged sisters allegedly murdered by her family, was a victim of physical and psychological abuse at home, a murder trial has heard.


    Teacher Antonella Enea said Sahar confided that she was injured by scissors in an incident with her brother, Hamed, and that she feared her father. “Some days she was very sad,” Enea testified. Math teacher Fatiha Boualia said Sahar told her that “things were severe at home, Muslim-oriented.” Teacher Claudia Deslauriers noticed bruises, scratches and scars on the inside of the girl’s forearms.

    Sahar told a social worker that she dreamed of helping women. “She wished to be a gynecologist because she was moved by the bad health that women had in Afghanistan,” community centre worker Stephanie Benjamin testified.


    Deslauriers, who taught three Shafia children, recounted a meeting with Yahya in which the mother seemed “really angry” and was asking if the teacher knew whether Sahar had a boyfriend who she had kissed.

    “I recall her saying that it was something that was against her values,” Deslauriers replied, during questioning by defence lawyer David Crowe, who represents Yahya.

    The teacher lied and said no, though she had been told by Sahar that she had a boyfriend.

    “I didn’t want Sahar to encounter any problems following our meeting,” she testified. Deslauriers said Sahar had never complained to her about problems with her parents, but she had heard this from Enea, who also attended the meeting with Sahar’s mother. Deslauriers said when she asked Sahar who caused the injuries on her arms, she did not get an answer.

    Enea said Sahar told her about problems at home.

    “She said she couldn’t have a normal life, the normal life of a young girl,” Enea testified. Sahar told her she couldn’t see friends of her choosing and could not go out of the home.

    The teacher offered to help but Sahar declined.

    “She said, ‘There’s nothing to be done,’ that was just the state of affairs at the house and nothing could be changed,” she testified.

    In June 2009, Sahar also told Enea that she feared violence at home.

    “She said that she was afraid of the father,” Enea testified. The teacher said Sahar told her that her father was returning to Canada from a business trip abroad and she feared one of her siblings who attended the same school was going to tell him that Sahar was a “whore.”

    Boualia recounted an incident when Sahar fainted in class in May 2009. Boualia spent hours at the hospital with the girl because her parents could not be reached. None of her family members came to the hospital.

    Boualia said she was told later by Sahar that she believed a sibling had told her mother not to go to the hospital.

    “She was crying,” Boualia testified. “She said, ‘Ma’am it’s always the fact (that others are) distancing people from me, that love me.’ ”

    Sahar did not tell the teacher who was trying to come between her and her family members. Sahar asked Boualia, who was a Muslim woman with a teenaged daughter, to speak to Yahya, Boualia said.

    “Sahar is a girl who liked life, she wished to be free,” Boualia testified.

    The complaints from Sahar to the teachers, in 2008 and 2009, that she had been abused, led to two calls to youth protection agencies. In at least one case, an investigator concluded the allegations were true but the case was closed and no action taken because of the finding that the girl was not in immediate danger, jurors heard earlier this week. ...

    read the full article at:


  29. A dozen officials didn’t know how to help desperate “honour killing” Shafia sisters

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 24, 2011

    There are two stories from Shafia-land, the murder trial of one side of an Afghan-Canadian family accused of the mass “honour killing” of the other side, which really tell the tale.

    The first happened in the spring of 2008, more than a year before teenagers Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia were found dead, with their purported auntie Rona Amir Mohammad, in a black Nissan submerged in the Kingston Mills locks outside the city.

    Claudia Deslauriers, a teacher at the school, had a meeting with Tooba Mohammad Yahya, the girls’ mother.

    Ms. Deslauriers didn’t recall who arranged the meeting, only that, “The mother came to see if Sahar had kissed a boy, if she had a boyfriend” and that “she seemed to be really angry.”

    Yahya, who is now 41, had brought another daughter along to translate.

    The young teacher knew one of her colleagues was worried about the girls and had the presence of mind to tell a small lie. “I told her no, she didn’t kiss any boy … I didn’t want Sahar to encounter any problems from the meeting at the house.”

    The meeting was brief, but Yahya made her views perfectly clear: “The mother explained to us that she didn’t accept her daughter would kiss a boy, and that it was not falling within the parameters of her values,” said Ms. Deslauriers, who testified Thursday at the trial.

    The second story happened in June, 2009, just weeks before Kingston Police were alerted to the grim discovery of the Nissan with its death cargo at the locks.

    Sahar was missing school, or coming in late, and another teacher, Antonella Enea, asked what was going on.

    “She was afraid,” Ms. Enea said. “She was afraid of what was going on at home … She said she was afraid of the father,” who was “supposed to return from a trip very shortly” (indeed, Mr. Shafia was soon due home from Dubai) and she was afraid a male relative, who also went to the same school, “was going to tell him she was a whore.”

    Ms. Enea had been instrumental in involving child-welfare authorities with Sahar before.

    About a year earlier, distraught and afraid over conditions at home, the girl had confided in her. Ms. Enea took her to see vice-principal Nathalie Laramee, who on that occasion alerted Quebec’s anglophone agency, Batshaw Youth and Family Services.

    So this time, Ms. Enea asked Sahar if she wanted her to call child welfare again, and the girl said she did, so she phoned.

    It was the “DPJ” she called, as the Department de la Protection de la Jeunesse, the Quebec agency for francophones, is known.

    She said she told the agency that Sahar was afraid of her father, and why; she believed she also told the person on the phone she had made a previous report about the same child, and since Sahar had told her she had a DPJ social worker, she said that too.

    But the agency person said there was no worker responsible for the 17-year-old.

    “Were they of any assistance to Sahar?” prosecutor Laurie Lacelle asked.

    “Well, they told me to find a shelter within the community – so she would have a place to go.” With the school psychologist, Ms. Enea later did that, though there is no evidence Sahar ever went to one.

    And there, in a nutshell, you have it — the egregious conduct of the Shafia girls (They wore makeup! Revealing sweaters! Resisted the hijab! Kissed boys!) which prosecutors allege was the motive for murder, and the missed chances there were to help the girls when they were still alive.

    Ms. Enea was but one of a dozen school officials, helping professionals and police officers in Montreal who personally either knew the teenage girls in that family were in dire straits or underestimated warning signs. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  30. Detective befriended family, played dumb during investigation, court hears

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 25, 2011

    Jurors at the Shafia murder trial heard Friday that one Kingston Police detective was assigned to buddy up to the Montreal family suspected of killing four members, in a bid to ferret out information.

    Steve Koopman, a young detective with a gentle manner, played his part by feeding the family lies. “I thought, I’m going to . . . play the role of an officer where I really wasn’t aware of everything that was happening, that I was still going to presume this as being more of a sudden-death investigation and obviously playing a bit ignorant in regards to my knowledge of everything that was happening,” Koopman testified.

    But Koopman knew exactly what was going on. He received a phone call on July 3, 2009, from Staff Sgt. Chris Scott, the senior officer in charge of the case, telling him they were re-classifying it as a homicide, three days after a sunken car with four bodies inside was pulled from a shallow canal.

    Koopman was one of the first officers to respond on the morning of June 30, 2009, when a submerged Nissan Sentra was found at Kingston Mills, an isolated transit point where a rural road crosses the Rideau Canal. ...

    Koopman developed a rapport with the family. He escorted the apparently grieving parents to the morgue to identify the bodies. He also attended the Montreal funeral on July 5, at a time when police already had concluded the family’s Lexus SUV had been used to push the Sentra into the canal.

    Police seized the Lexus on July 10, 2009, fearing critical evidence could be lost.

    Koopman went to Montreal and asked the family for consent to take the SUV for examination, without telling them that police had secretly obtained a warrant that permitted them to seize and study the vehicle. The father agreed and the vehicle was taken.

    Almost immediately, Koopman started getting phone calls, primarily from 18-year-old Hamed Shafia, the family’s oldest son, asking whether the Lexus could be returned to them. Koopman told Hamed, in a July 13 call, that Kingston police identification officers weren’t available to go to Montreal yet to process the vehicle. Koopman lied and said the Lexus was at a Montreal police impound lot.

    A few days later, Hamed asked if he could go to the impound lot in Montreal to retrieve the Lexus.

    “At that point, obviously that wasn’t true, we had the vehicle here in Kingston,” Koopman testified. “Again, it was a strategy or a ploy on our part.”

    Police even offered to pay for a rental car, but the family declined.

    Koopman’s testimony also revealed police pored over phone records in a bid to pinpoint the Shafia family’s movements. The information provides an approximation of a phone’s location when it is turned on and used for calls or texts.

    Koopman compiled 7,000 records for four cellphones used by the family into a report of more than 400 pages.

    The records revealed a phone believed to have been used by Hamed was in the Grand-Remous, Que., area on June 20, 2009. ...

    In interviews after his arrest, Hamed denied that he was in the Kingston area on June 27. He could not explain the cellphone records.

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  31. How to interview a murder suspect

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post
    November 25, 2011

    ... Det. Koopman, the police liaison with the family, was assigned to ask Shafia for consent to search the Lexus. It was not uncomplicated: Shafia’s grasp of English poor, so the detective had to work through an interpreter. Koopman first had to find out what Shafia knew about any damage to the Lexus, then tell him about Hamed’s little misadventure, and then get what’s called informed consent for police to search the Lexus.

    It’s a high standard. The person being asked for consent has to understand that he has every right to refuse, that he can first ask a lawyer for advice, and that the police aren’t his friends though they may well be friendly. If such a consent isn’t fully informed and completely voluntary, it can be challenged later in court and its fruits — the information gleaned by police as a result — even deemed inadmissible and tossed by a judge. ...

    He spent the first half of the interview extracting from Shafia, via the interpreter, his knowledge about the state of the Lexus, and then telling him about Hamed’s accident.

    “Why this is important for us,” he said, “is that it’s coincidental that he has damage to the Lexus when there’s obviously some damage to the Nissan, and we just need to make sure that they’re not connected.”

    What he wanted, he said, was “your consent for us to go take a look at the damage to the Lexus?”

    “Yes,” Shafia said. “Hundred per cent.”

    Koopman thanked him, told him he would have to read him the consent form, a sentence at a time.

    He explained his right to retain counsel. “He’s not being charged with anything,” he told the interpreter. “ . . . But he still has a right . . . to speak to a lawyer if he’d like to.”

    “The closest person to us right now is you,” Shafia said. “The police here are good. No problem.”

    “OK,” Koopman replied. “Just let him know, though, police have our own interests, which is to find out what happened. So a lawyer is still separate from police, and that the lawyer is acting for Mohammad.”

    “No,” Shafia said. “I don’t have anything to do with lawyers.”

    Then the detective explained that he could consult a lawyer through legal aid for free.

    “Montreal?” Shafia asked.

    Koopman explained the number he had was for Ontario legal aid, “but if he wants to call Montreal, he can as well. Good, yeah.”

    “What is the purpose of this lawyer? Is it needed for check car or why is this lawyer being called for?” Shafia asked.

    Again, the detective explained, even more slowly. “The lawyer has nothing to do with the car,” he said. “It’s more . . . the lawyer will say to Mohammad, ‘That sounds fine, let the police check the vehicle’ or the lawyer might say, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have the police check the vehicle.’”

    Shafia then explained his concern that a lawyer might not speak his language, and would be useless, and added, “I don’t know your rules. What would help you out? Whatever helps you out in this incident, I am ready.”

    “Thank you, Mohammad,” Koopman said. “The lawyer is nothing to help us.

    “The lawyer is if you think you want to talk to one. If you feel fine with what I’m asking you today, then you don’t need to speak to a lawyer. If you feel that you’re like nervous about what police are asking you and you’d like some legal advice, then you should call a lawyer.”

    Shafia insisted he wanted to know how his family died.

    The detective then handed Shafia a card with the legal aid number.

    “So tell him he can call this number before we do the search and after, but like especially he can call the lawyer here if he wants before we do the search,” he told the interpreter. ...

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  32. ‘Honour killing’ victims might have been killed before plunging into canal, court hears

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 28, 2011

    Three teenage Montreal sisters and their stepmother found dead in a submerged car could have been drowned elsewhere and then stuffed into the vehicle before it plunged into a shallow canal, the Shafia murder trial heard Monday.

    “From a pathology perspective, I cannot include or exclude that … it is possible,” forensic pathologist Dr. Christopher Milroy testified.

    But thorough toxicology tests found the victims had no signs of drugs or alcohol in their bodies.

    On a trying day for jurors, they were shown ghastly photos of three of the victims with the skin on their heads peeled back to reveal bruises on their crowns or foreheads.

    Milroy, a professor at the University of Ottawa, was asked by prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis if his findings make it more or less plausible that the victims were either incapacitated or drowned elsewhere than Kingston Mills — the remote spot along the Rideau Canal where they were found June 30, 2009 in a submerged car — before the vehicle went into the water.

    Milroy said the pathology is “neutral” on the proposition.

    The conclusion came at the end of the doctor’s 90-minute testimony based on his autopsies of the four victims, which found that all died of drowning. Milroy said he could not say when or how the victims drowned.

    He said thorough toxicology tests did not find any evidence that the victims were incapacitated or sedated with any drugs or toxins.

    Mohammad Shafia, 58, clutched a tissue to his face and appeared to sob as graphic photos from the autopsies were flashed onto large monitors in the courtroom. His son, Hamed, 20, sitting beside him in the prisoner’s box, also held a tissue to his face but did not appear distraught. Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, was permitted to remain out of the courtroom for all of Milroy’s testimony.

    The three are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty to murdering four family members, sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in his native Afghanistan.

    Jurors were shown ghastly photos of three of the victims, Rona, Zainab and Geeti, with the skin on their heads peeled back to reveal bruises on their crowns or foreheads.

    “It clearly requires explanation and what is somewhat unusual is that they have three areas of impact to the head and there is a relative absence of injury elsewhere on the body,” Milroy testified. He could not explain the bruises. Rona had the most significant injuries.

    “It’s a fairly substantial area of bruising,” Milroy testified. Only Sahar did not have the mysterious bruises on her head.

    The other victims also had minor bruises, discovered during internal examinations, in the muscles around the neck, shoulders and chest. These were likely caused during the dying process, Milroy testified.

    Defence lawyers have not yet had a chance to question the pathologist.


  33. ‘This is Canada. Do not be afraid,’ relative told alleged honour killing victim

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 28, 2011

    ... Dr. Milroy ... He found that the four women drowned to death; that elaborate toxicology tests showed no evidence they were drugged; that the bruising to three of the victims, significant in Ms. Amir’s case, could have led to unconsciousness but there’s no way to know if it did; allowed it is “unlikely” the three would have similar injuries to their heads and no other injuries, and said there is no way to tell where, in what sequence or by what mechanism they drowned.

    Then Dr. Milroy uttered the four words that given Ontario’s checkered history in such matters could be considered shocking.

    He was being asked if there was anything in his findings that could tell him whether or not the three girls and Ms. Amir were drowned elsewhere and put back in the Nissan in which their bodies were found.

    “From a pathological perspective,” he said, “I can’t include or exclude the possibility.”

    Then, the words that would shake the disgraced Ontario pathologist Dr. Charles Smith to the core — Dr. Smith saw himself as part of the prosecution team and often testified as such, with wrongful convictions sometimes the result — Dr. Milroy added, “The pathology is neutral.”

    Following him to the witness box was a relative of Ms. Amir’s who can’t yet be identified.

    Little has been heard about Ms. Amir at trial — except that she couldn’t have children, which is what led Mr. Shafia to marry Ms. Yahya — so the relative’s testimony was keenly anticipated.

    The witness, however, speaks no English, only Dari/Farsi (the languages are virtually the same, as American English is to British) and French, and to say she is garrulous and speaks at a great rate is akin to saying le train grand vitesse goes fast.

    Even the spelling of her name, not usually a difficult task for these skilled translators, was virtually unattainable. She apparently has eight siblings, but in the giving of their names the list added up to about 16.

    She did, however, dispel one of Mr. Shafia’s least appetizing claims: He has always maintained he and Ms. Amir were never married.

    Well, this lady attended both his weddings, both conveniently held, about a decade apart, at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel.

    She also said — o charming Afghan custom! — that it was Ms. Amir who asked the family of Ms. Yahya for her hand because Mr. Shafia so desperately needed children.

    She also said in the last months of her life, Ms. Amir was unhappy, often calling to complain about her life, and that she told her she’d overheard a conversation among the parents and Hamed, during which Mr. Shafia threatened to kill Zainab, who in April of 2009 had run away to a women’s shelter, and “the other one,” which Ms. Amir took to mean her.

    But because the Dari/Farsi languages have no separate male and female pronouns — essentially, everyone is referred to as male, it apparently being the only worthy sex — she can’t be sure if it was Ms. Yahya who asked about “the other one” or Hamed.

    This matter was settled only after the witness had nattered on over the protestations of the lawyers and judge, as she did many times.

    Dari/Farsi are sufficiently imprecise languages, the witness’s speaking speed so breakneck, and the interpreter so overwhelmed that several times, references to her maternal uncle were translated as “my maternal ankle.”

    In any case, the relative told Ms. Amir, “Don’t be afraid. This is not Afghanistan. This is not Dubai. This is Canada. Do not be afraid; nothing will happen.”

    As with so much else at this trial, one hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry.

    read the full article at:


  34. Victim of alleged ‘honour killing’ believed husband would kill her if she left: witness

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 29, 2011

    Rona Amir Mohammad did not flee abuse at the hands of her husband Mohammad Shafia and his second wife because she feared her husband would kill her, jurors at Shafia’s murder trial were told.

    “She said if she leaves, her husband will kill her,” Fahima Vorgetts testified Tuesday. “She took it seriously because her husband told her he will kill her if she leaves.”

    Vorgetts, a U.S.-based volunteer with Women for Afghan Women, a human rights organization, said she began taking phone calls from the Montreal woman in the spring of 2008, after a referral through Vorgetts’ aunt. Vorgetts also is a native of Afghanistan. She said Rona seemed desperate, and called her two to three times a week for roughly a year. ...

    Vorgetts said Rona was not allowed to use the phone in the family’s Montreal house so she would go to a pay phone in a nearby park in the evening and call. She said many calls were marked by long bouts of crying as Rona recounted constant abuse and humiliation.

    “She did say that he beat her up, the husband beat her up . . . he was pulling her hair,” Vorgetts testified. Rona also complained of being kicked by Shafia.

    “She said that her husband and her husband’s wife were abusive towards her and she needs help, what to do, where to go,” Vorgetts told jurors. “She did not have any information, knowledge about what to do in this country.”

    Vorgetts said she urged her to go to a shelter or a church or to the police, but Rona told her she was too afraid to leave and was warned by Shafia that he’d make sure she was shipped back to Afghanistan if she went to authorities. Vorgetts testified that Shafia held all of Rona’s identity documents, including her passport, so Rona believed she could not flee to another country where she had relatives.

    “She said that her husband’s wife would mock her, put her down in front of the family’s guests,” she testified. Vorgetts said Rona told her that Yahya called her “a slave, you are a servant.”

    Though Yahya gave birth to all of the family’s children, Rona helped to raise them, the trial has heard.

    “She loved the girls, she loved the children and she said that it’s very difficult to leave the children,” Vorgetts testified.

    Defence lawyer Peter Kemp, who represents Shafia, asked Vorgetts why she didn’t call police in Montreal herself if she believed Rona’s life was in danger.

    “I asked Rona to do it and that was her call,” Vorgetts replied. She could not offer any details of any injuries Rona might have suffered as a result of the abuse she claimed she endured.

    Jurors already have heard that Rona asked Shafia for a divorce but he had refused to put anything on paper. An immigration lawyer who testified Tuesday said that if Shafia’s polygamy were revealed in Canada, the second marriage would have been considered invalid and Rona would have had legal rights to property and support.

    Montreal lawyer Sabine Venturelli said if Shafia’s hidden polygamy had come to light, it would have had serious repercussions on the family.

    “I think immigration (officials) would have withdrawn residential status of all members of the family,” testified Venturelli, who had handled an application by Rona for permanent resident status. Other family members already had status.

    A sibling of Rona’s who travelled thousands of kilometres from France to appear at the trial concluded her testimony Tuesday with an animated soliloquy.

    Diba Masoomi, who lives in France and was a younger sister of Rona, testified Monday that Rona told her, in a phone call, that she overheard Shafia plotting to kill her and Zainab. ...

    read the full article at:


  35. Fear kept alleged honour killing victims imprisoned in misery

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 29, 2011

    What a wretched tale of misery is unfolding at the Shafia family murder trial here.

    Whatever verdicts the Ontario Superior Court jury ultimately reaches, what is virtually undeniable is that this household functioned like a mini totalitarian state, where everyone walked on eggshells or outright lived in fear and where intimates were turned against and snitched on one another to the power-holders.

    Smack in the middle of one of Canada’s most proudly cosmopolitan cities — Montreal, where they lived — this family of Afghan immigrants was still imprisoned in their homeland’s archaic culture.

    The boys of the family were spying on the girls, looking for signs of loose Western behaviour; the older girls were so desperate for a way out they agreed to marry virtually any boy who looked at them twice; the two wives, quietly living in an illegal and secret polygamous marriage, were at one another’s throats, with the fertile one lording it over the older, barren one. ...

    Almost daily, there is testimony from witnesses about the repressive Afghan culture in general and how it was enforced at the Shafia home.

    One of Ms. Amir’s sisters, Diba Abdali Masoomi, said she knew of her sister’s plight, and reminded her, when she reported threats from Mr. Shafia, “in Afghanistan anything can happen … but this is a developed country.” Ms. Masoomi also said that Ms. Amir had also told her how Hamed had once disciplined one of the boys and how the boy had said, “My father has the right to hit me, but who are you to hit me?”

    Another time, asked how, if her sister was so under her husband’s thumb she had so much gold jewellery, Ms. Masoomi said, “I am an Afghan lady. I have one box of jewellery; it is our custom.”

    The day’s final witness was a young boyfriend of Sahar’s, a shy, even grave, fellow of 23.

    An immigrant who just arrived in Montreal in 2008, he isn’t Afghan, and doesn’t speak Dari, so the two spoke French (hers was good, he was learning) and she learned a little of his language. (His name is protected by a temporary publication ban.) They dated for only four months, but were planning to marry, he said.

    Most of their dates consisted of having lunch during her school day. Once, they were hugging when one of her relatives walked into the restaurant: At Sahar’s insistence, the young man said, they sprang apart, and he pretended to be another girl’s boyfriend.

    When the Shafias went away on their trip, they managed a few phone calls, and he sent her a couple of besotted texts in his first language, which Sahar understood only a little.

    In her last text, sent the night she died, she told him they were about three hours away from Montreal, and were going to stop at a Kingston motel.

    When she stopped answering his texts, the young man called her 22 times in the next 17 hours. All went to voice mail.

    Part of what he wrote in a text a week earlier were these lines: “The world is very large, it’s so large that one day I could even lose you. But in this world, as large as it is, know there’s a small heart, and you can never get lost in that heart, because it’s only for you, my love.”

    If Sahar couldn’t read every word, perhaps she recognized the love and sweetness there, and took comfort.

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  36. Sahar Shafia planned to tell parents of secret boyfriend despite fears, ‘honour killing’ trial told

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News November 30, 2011

    Sahar Shafia told her boyfriend’s aunt she believed her parents would kill her if they found out about her relationship with the young man from Honduras but she planned to tell them about it because she would love him “until death,” the murder trial of her parents and brother heard on Wednesday.

    “She told me that her parents did not know about the relationship with Ricardo and the day that her parents knew about the relationship with Ricardo she would be a dead woman,” Erma Medina testified Wednesday. She said Sahar repeated the claim several times and appeared serious. ...

    Sahar secretly dated Angel Ricardo Ruano Sanchez, a young Montreal man, for the last four months she was alive. Sanchez testified the young lovers talked of moving to his native country, Honduras, and of marrying.

    Sanchez testified they kept the relationship secret out of fear of the reaction of her family. He believed the family would not approve of the union between the Spanish-speaking Christian and the teenage Muslim girl whose family is from Afghanistan.

    Sanchez lived with his aunt for a time and Sahar visited him there.

    Medina last talked to Sahar in April 2009, she testified. She said Sahar told her she planned to tell her parents about Sanchez but she hoped to move to Honduras to marry him.

    “They would get support and feel more secure in my country than in this country,” Medina testified, through a Spanish interpreter, as did Sanchez. She said Sanchez’s father and other relatives are in Honduras.

    Medina was asked by prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis why Sahar would tell her parents about her boyfriend if she believed they would kill her.

    “Because she loved Ricardo . . . and said that she would love (him) until death,” Medina replied.

    Medina acknowledged, during questioning by defence lawyer Peter Kemp, who represents Mohammad Shafia, that she never learned from Sanchez or Sahar whether Sahar’s parents knew of the relationship.

    Sanchez also testified that he saw unexplained bruises on Sahar’s arm and leg. He said that he did not believe her explanation that she had fallen and hurt herself.

    “I said it didn’t look like a bruise from a fall,” Sanchez testified.

    Sahar confided in teachers at her school in 2008 that she was being physically and emotionally abused by family members, jurors heard previously. The complaints prompted a call to a youth protection agency.

    The first agency employee to hear Sahar’s complaints testified Wednesday that she spoke, in May 2008, to a terrified and suicidal young woman who said life at home was unbearable.

    “She told me that she was extremely scared because . . . she was not allowed to share family information with outsiders and she was afraid of the repercussions,” Evelyn Benayoun testified. At the time, Benayoun was an intake worker for Batshaw, a child protection agency for anglophones in Montreal. She spoke to Sahar by telephone, after school officials called the agency.

    “Sahar told me that she wanted to die because she was extremely sad,” Benayoun testified. “The whole home situation was unbearable for her.”

    Sahar told the woman of physical abuse by her older brother Hamed, at the behest of her parents, and that she was emotionally rejected by her mother. Benayoun said Sahar told her that her mother would not speak to her and her siblings were forbidden to talk to her, as punishment for having introduced a sister to a boy.

    “She said, ‘I want my mother to speak to me,’” Benayoun testified.

    She coded the case as an emergency requiring immediate action. ...

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  37. Sahar Shafia felt ‘very strange’ on doomed trip to Kingston, boyfriend testifies

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post November 30, 2011

    ... Sahar and sisters Zainab and Geeti, with their mother Ms. Yahya at the wheel, were in the Nissan, purchased just the day before by Mr. Shafia though the family already had an SUV and a minivan in the driveway of their Montreal home.

    Also believed to have been with them in the Nissan was Rona Amir Mohammad, the 53-year-old woman the children knew as an aunt but who was in fact their father’s first wife.

    In a silver Lexus SUV ahead of them, leading the way, were Mr. Shafia, Hamed, and three other siblings.

    On June 28, 2009, the young couple talked four times on the phone for a total of 37 minutes, usually just a warm-up to a single call for them; a reasonable inference is that their chats were cut short.

    The last time Ricardo phoned – he made three of those four calls – was mid-morning; he wanted to let her know he was going to play soccer.

    The last message he received from Sahar came near midnight on June 29. “She texted me she was with her two sisters in the car.” She said though they were just a couple of hours away from Montreal, they were tired and “her father had told them” they were going to stop at a motel in Kingston.

    “Did Sahar say anything about the fact she was with Geeti and Zainab and Rona?” prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis asked.

    “All she said was that she found it very strange that they were in that car and her father was in a different car,” the young man said. ...

    Each of the four, Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and the jurors have heard, believed her life was in peril.

    Ms. Amir was keen to get out of her marriage and talked with tearful regularity with a women’s rights activist. The woman urged her to leave, but Ms. Amir was too afraid.

    Zainab actually got away a few months before her death – she spent two weeks at a women’s shelter – and quickly married one boy, agreed to it being annulled, and agreed to marry another. It was her near-escape which seems to have plummeted the family into a full-blown crisis.

    Geeti told anyone who would listen she wanted to be taken into care, anything to get her out of the house.

    Sahar once tried to kill herself, and was so utterly distraught and sad her teachers twice called child-protection authorities – one for francophones, one for anglophones — the most recent complaint made just 25 days before she died.

    But she had her lovely, serious boyfriend, and what she couldn’t find the courage or words to tell him, she told his aunt Irma. “She told me if her parents found out [about Ricardo], she was a dead woman,” Ms. Medina said Wednesday.

    Ricardo is a smart young fellow, now 23. He knew his beautiful girl was afraid – they were hugging once when one of her male siblings spotted them, and sprang apart at Sahar’s insistence – if not precisely of what. He believed her parents wouldn’t approve of their relationship, let alone their fledgling plan to marry.

    “I’m Latin-American,” he said. “I’m a Christian. I understand in their religion [Islam], they can get married only amongst themselves.”

    “How do you know that, if Sahar didn’t tell you?” prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis asked.

    “That,” said Angel Ricardo Ruano Sanchez evenly, as dignified as his name, “is something most of the world knows.”

    The trial resumes Monday.

    read the full article at:


  38. ‘Honour is men’s need to control women’s sexuality,’ expert tells Shafia murder trial

    by Christie Blatchford , National Post December 5, 2011

    As usual, it’s the colloquial that captures it best, in this case what the witness in the stand once described as “the crude Arabic expression that ‘A man’s honour lies between the legs of a woman.’ ”

    And precisely that, said Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, is at the core of the global phenomenon known as “honour killing.”

    In other words, in some cultures, women are considered the property of men; men are responsible for controlling their behaviour, particularly their sexuality; a woman even perceived to be out of control reflects on the man’s honour, and “the way to deal with the dishonouring is through the shedding of blood.… It’s a way of purifying the honour of the family and the community.”

    Dr. Mojab was testifying here Monday at the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Hamed Shafia, three members of a sprawling Afghan family who immigrated to Montreal in 2007.

    The three — father, mother and eldest son — are pleading not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder in what prosecutors allege was a mass honour slaying of their intimates.
    The bodies of sisters Zainab, Sahar and Geeti — respectively 19, 17 and 13 — and their purported 52-year-old aunt, Rona Amir Mohammad, who was in fact Mr. Shafia’s first wife, were discovered in a submerged black Nissan at the Kingston Mills locks on June 30, 2009.

    All died from drowning, and all but Sahar had recent, and in two instances significant, bruising to the tops of their heads.
    Dr. Mojab, a political refugee from Iran, is a University of Toronto professor who was testifying as an expert in honour killing and its relationship to “culture, religion, patriarchy and violence against women in the Middle East and the diaspora across the world.”
    Multilingual, she has conducted original research, written hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters, and co-edited a 2004 book called Violence in the Name of Honour.
    She acknowledged her perspective is that of an advocate and a feminist, but also said flatly that there is “no serious debate about the phenomenon” in academia, only arguments about its forms and “how to name it and how to deal with it.”

    In patriarchal cultures such as Afghanistan’s, Dr. Mojab said, “cleansing one’s honour of shame is typically handled by the killing of a loved one,” almost always female, with the murderer often ending up being “respected as a true man.
    “What masquerades as ‘honour’ is really men’s need to control women’s sexuality,” she told Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger and a jury.

    Though she was not asked for comment about the case at bar, her general descriptions of the phenomenon certainly seems to fit the evidence called by prosecutors.

    Jurors have heard, for instance, that the Shafia daughters were so desperate for more freedom that Zainab ran away, Sahar tried to kill herself and Geeti begged to be taken into foster care, and that Ms. Amir was deeply unhappy and had raised the possibility of a divorce. The oldest girls also had boyfriends they tried to keep secret.

    Any or all of these behaviours, Dr. Mojab said, may be interpreted as stains upon male control of the family — particularly any hint that a woman is having a relationship, especially a sexual one.

    “It could be only a rumour which causes the killing of a young woman,” Dr. Mojab said. “The mere perception that a woman has behaved this way is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.”

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    The trio on trial here are jointly accused, and though Dr. Mojab said the perpetrators of honour killings are most often “fathers, brothers, uncles,” there are also cases “where females [mothers] participate in the process of meditating [upon], planning and sometimes directly participating” in the slaying.
    “Often mothers are in the middle,” she said. “They have to negotiate between the power of the male members and the protection of the female members.”

    She said in most of the cases she’s studied, “mothers have participated” by either “creating [the environment that supports honour killing] or not preventing the killing.”

    The jurors have also heard that Hamed, as the eldest son, ran the household with an iron hand whenever his father was away.

    As Dr. Mojab said, “Honour resides with the men in the family,” usually with the oldest son as a secondary power. Together, the men are responsible for “the control and appearance of female members,” and depend upon a variety of mechanisms, including gossip, to ensure compliance.

    The decision-making process can take several years, moving from disappointment to emotional and physical violence.

    There may even be family meetings held to discuss whether a killing is necessary, and sometimes, Dr. Mojab said, the girl in question is brought in “to hear the decision” and be told that “it is best for her and for the restoration of family honour.”

    Often afterwards, she said, such fathers will claim they loved their children, that the killing was “part of the continuum of love and care.” The fathers may claim that the suffering of the rest of the family, having to live as dishonoured, is greater than death.

    Interestingly, Dr. Mojab said that in what she called “the sense of the frozen moment,” immigrants to new countries may be stricter with their families even than their former countrymen back home.

    “Globally,” she said, “honour killing is on the rise and has transgressed the borders of the regions where it usually takes place,” and moved into Europe and North America.

    Though Dr. Mojab didn’t dispute the numbers in a 2009 recent article — 13 incidents of suspected honour killings in Canada and the United States over a 20-year period — and agreed with defence lawyer Patrick McCann that it is “a pretty rare occurrence,” she testified earlier that even if an honour killing is portrayed or perceived as an accident, “everyone in their hidden consciousness knows it is an honour killing.”
    Dr. Mojab was the prosecutor’s final witness.
    Jurors will return to court Thursday for what is expected to be the start of the defence case.


  40. Sometimes ‘purifying the name of the family’ trumps human life, expert tells Shafia trial

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News December 5, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — After a dizzying parade of nearly 50 witnesses in 25 days, jurors in the Shafia honour killing trial heard one final prosecution witness Monday — an academic who testified that in some cultures, family honour is considered more important than human life.

    “A rumour could cause the killing of a young woman,” testified Shahrzad Mojab, a native of Iran who is a professor at the University of Toronto. The judge accepted her as an expert on honour killings and related issues of culture, religion, patriarchy and violence in Middle Eastern and South Asian societies and in immigrant diasporas in western nations.

    Mojab has been studying these issues for more than 15 years, edited a book on honour killing, has written dozens of research papers and has attended dozens of conferences and seminars. She has provided advice to the United Nations and, last year, she explained the concept of honour killing at a conference of Toronto Police homicide investigators. ...

    Mojab was not asked to comment on the facts of the Shafia case. She explained the concept of honour killing and the motivations of perpetrators.

    “The shedding of the blood is a way of purifying the name of the family . . . and restoration of the honour of the family,” Mojab told the seven women and five men on the jury.

    She said that in traditional, patriarchal families, the chastity, virginity and obedience of girls and women is vital to the maintenance of family honour. Men, who have power in the families, control women’s bodies and have exclusive access to them. If a woman dresses immodestly or consorts with other men, or is believed to have done those things, she may be perceived to have shamed the patriarch and may be marked for death.

    “There are cases that female members of the family and, in particular mothers, participate by different means in the . . . planning or (are) directly involved in the act of the killing,” Mojab testified.

    She said the conspiracy among family members is a characteristic that distinguishes honour killings from domestic violence. She said honour killing is an ancient cultural practice among Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians.

    “It doesn’t have any direct connection with religion at all,” she said, characterizing it as a means for men to maintain the gender inequality which affords them a privileged position in families and society.

    Mojab said that in many cases she has studied, perpetrators who murder their children claim that they loved them but say that their deaths were necessary because they restored the honour of the family and the honour of the child who transgressed.

    “It is (considered) part of the continuum of love and care,” Mojab testified.

    She said some immigrants don’t shed these strict views when they move to new countries. Instead, they “freeze” their concept of their home culture at the moment in time when they left their native country and resist integration in a new home by clinging to old beliefs.

    Defence lawyer Peter Kemp, who represents Shafia, asked Mojab if the shame of a family would not be purified if an honour killer denied committing the murder.

    “That’s often the initial reaction,” she replied. “But then there are many cases that, even after the father is imprisoned, they acknowledge that the act that was committed was to purify the name of the family.”

    In answer to another question, Mojab said an honour killing would still be considered to have cleansed the family’s shame, even if the death was disguised as an accident. ...


  41. Father accused of ‘honour killing’ paints idyllic picture of family life in Canada

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post December 8, 2011

    The Afghan father accused in the deaths of almost half his clan is painting an idyllic picture of family life in Canada.

    Mohammad Shafia, now 58, took the witness stand to testify in his own defence Thursday morning.
    Led through his evidence by his lawyer Peter Kemp, Mr. Shafia said he was a liberal parent who didn’t care how his daughters dressed, and twice sobbed as he spoke about them.

    His testimony is starkly at odds with how other witnesses have described the household. They said Mr. Shafia ran the house with an iron hand and that the girls lived like political prisoners.

    Still, when he described finding a picture of 17-year-old Sahar with a boy, after the death of the girl and two sisters, he said, “My children did a lot of cruelty to me.”

    He, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their oldest son Hamed are pleading not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder.
    Sisters Sahar, 19-year-old Zainab and 13-year old-Geeti, plus Mr. Shafia’s first wife Rona Amir Mohammad, were found June 30 2009 in a black Nissan submerged at the Kingston Mills locks outside this city.

    But Mr. Shafia’s two and a half hours of examination-in-chief was riddled with inconsistencies. At one point, for instance, he said he and Ms. Yahya had been at the Kingston Mills area before, apparently meaning on other holidays; at another, he said he’d never seen the area until Kingston Police showed him the accident scene.

    And despite his self-portrait as a loving and kind father whose daughters called him “daddy,” it was evident he was still furious that Sahar had a boyfriend and that she and Zainab were dressing in short skirts.

    “I was not happy with this,” he said of his purported discovery, after the four died, of a photo of Sahar with a boy’s arms around her. “I didn’t expect this of my children.”
    Mr. Kemp put to him some of the most damaging statements Mr. Shafia made on police wiretaps which are now exhibits at trial – notably his furious wish that “the devil s—- on their graves.”

    “To me, it means the devil will go out and check with them in their graves,” Mr. Shafia said. “If they have done a good thing, or a bad thing, it will be up to God.”

    He will be cross-examined later Thursday.


  42. Father accused in ‘honour killing’ trial makes his pitch for world’s greatest dad

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post, December 8, 2011

    Father of the year: This, ultimately, is the face Afghan businessman Mohammad Shafia has turned to Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and the jurors presiding at his murder trial.
    As he told prosecutor Laurie Lacelle once, looking imploringly towards the jury box as he described his concern about his eldest daughter’s choice of a husband, “Respected lady, whoever has a young daughter here, I’m sure they would make sure they marry a good boy.” ...
    He was taken through his evidence by his lawyer, Peter Kemp, and in short order, denied there was any real discord in the household or that he was a tyrant who, when travelling abroad, used his oldest son as his lieutenant on the home front.
    The critical denial at the end of Mr. Kemp’s examination-in-chief — “Did you have anything to do with it?” meaning the deaths — was bizarre, or as lawyers say, non-responsive to the question.
    Mr. Shafia replied he didn’t even know the area where his family died until the police had showed him afterwards, this despite the fact that at the start of his testimony, just two hours earlier, he said the family had been there at least twice before on stopovers during holiday trips. ...
    Mr. Shafia’s greatest challenge may have been to explain the incendiary comment he made about his dead daughters in a conversation captured on Kingston Police wiretaps.
    “May the Devil shit on their graves!” is what Mr. Shafia famously said.
    Despite Mr. Kemp’s best efforts to have him say this was just a common old refrain back in Kabul, Mr. Shafia missed the bald hints and instead explained, “To me, it means the Devil will go out and check with them in their graves, and if they have done a good thing or a bad thing, it would be up to God.”
    To Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed and asked, “Is that a common term for Afghans to use when angry?” Mr. Shafia dutifully replied “Yes.”
    And to Ms. Lacelle, who noted that despite his claims to have forgiven Zainab her various transgressions, “if you said the Devil should shit on her grave, you still hadn’t forgiven her” Mr. Shafia insisted he had. “I gave her money, I kissed her face,” he said.
    His testimony, clear as mud in every regard, stood in sharp contrast to the evidence of virtually every other witness who has testified at trial and to his own vicious utterings caught on the wiretaps.
    From family relatives to strangers to professionals, from police in Montreal, where the family lived, to the girls’ teachers to the ineffective workers they called in from Quebec’s child-protection system, witness after witness has told the jurors that the four were riven with fear — afraid of Mr. Shafia, afraid of Hamed, afraid to leave, afraid to stay. ...

    But Mr. Shafia denied all that and maintained that he knew only one, Zainab, who had run away in April that year and returned when promised she could marry her boyfriend, was unhappy.
    On the wiretaps, in conversations with Ms. Yahya and Hamed in the family minivan, Mr. Shafia cursed his dead daughters as filth and whores and once cried that whenever he looked at the pictures of Sahar and Zainab, scantily clad posing with their boyfriends, “I am consoled. I say to myself, ‘You did well. Would they come back to life a hundred times, for you to do the same again.’ “That is how hurt I am. “Tooba, they betrayed us immensely. They violated us immensely. There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this. By God!”
    But Thursday, he maintained that what he meant by him “doing well” was merely that he had done his duty as a father and tried to guide his daughters onto “a straight path.”

    read the full article at:


  43. Mohammad Shafia’s words turned against him in cross-examination

    by Christie Blatchford December 9, 2011

    ... The 59-year-old Afghan patriarch accused of murder in the deaths of almost half his family finished testifying in his own defence Friday.
    But while Mr. Shafia continued to deny killing his three daughters and barren first wife, he was nonetheless painted into numerous corners by assistant Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle, who used Mr. Shafia’s own words as her chief weapon. ...

    A key admission came when Ms. Lacelle, using Mr. Shafia’s conversations on Kingston Police wiretaps, quoted him telling Hamed on the day of their arrest that July that “We haven’t done anything wrong. They [the dead women] did it themselves.”

    “Indeed,” Mr. Shafia replied.

    “You believe their actions brought about their rightful deaths?” Ms. Lacelle asked.

    “Yes,” Mr. Shafia said.

    He went on to say that the girls’ lies to him and secrets kept from him — the eldest had run away from home and Sahar had a boyfriend — amounted to a betrayal.

    “You believed your daughters deserved to die for their treachery?” Ms. Lacelle asked.

    “That’s up to God,” Mr. Shafia snapped. “What they did, for us [the family] they were not deserving.”

    “Their treachery brought dishonour to you and your family?” she persisted.

    “We believe in that,” Mr. Shafia agreed.
    Again throwing his words back at him, Ms. Lacelle asked, “You had a choice — to accept what they did, or kill them?”

    “Not,” said Mr. Shafia.

    “And you chose to kill them?”

    “I never do some things to my children,” he said, “and I love them more than my own body.”
    At another point, after Ms. Lacelle again accused Mr. Shafia of killing the four, he said, “Dear respected lady, we never give ourselves the permission to do that. Our Koran does not allow ourselves to do that... How could someone do that?” he asked.

    “You might do it if you thought they were whores,” the prosecutor smoothly replied, a reference to Mr. Shafia’s repeated cursing of his dead daughters as “filth” and “whores” on the wiretaps.

    “Respected lady,” he said, “that was only Zainab, and Sahar, that later I learned. The others were innocents. It’s impossible.”
    As his words on the wiretaps had revealed him as an unforgiving man, so did his words in testimony show him as a ruthless father who at the least was gloating at the fate meted out to his disobedient family.

    In another skillful exchange, Ms. Lacelle took Mr. Shafia through the chats he, Ms. Yahya and Hamed had in their minivan the day police took them to the “accident scene” just outside this eastern Ontario city.

    Though the trio clearly believed they were speaking privately, detectives had planted a bug in the van, and then pretended to have spotted a small camera at the water’s edge — it was a ruse — where the Nissan had gone into the canal. ...

    Mr. Shafia agreed the conversation had happened, but insisted that “I said it would be good.”
    He said nothing of the sort, as Ms. Lacelle pointed out to him.

    “Hamed says, ‘They said they want to see if the camera has recorded anything or not. They said there’s a camera near the water.’ You say, ‘They’re lying. If there was a camera, they’d access it in a minute.’

    “That’s an expression of happiness that they found a camera?” Ms. Lacelle asked mildly.

    “This is what I meant,” Mr. Shafia said. “It would be good.”

    It was a remarkably deft cross-examination of a witness alternately condescending and sly, who hid behind the complications of language and translation, and who could — and did — make himself weep.

    When, for instance, Ms. Lacelle was reading his own words, post-arrest, back to him — he was then hectoring a worried Hamed about the importance of “honour” — Mr. Shafia agreed that he linked his honour with his daughters’ rebellious behaviour.

    “I said that, yes,” he said ...

    read the rest at:


  44. ‘You are 100% caught,’ younger brother warned Hamed

    Christie Blatchford, National Post December 12, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — If it is the unusual child who knowingly orphans himself – does something, says something, that would see him robbed of his parents forever — it is nonetheless the rarest of birds who so cheerfully sacrifices the dead in the name of the living.

    Enter one of Mohammad Shafia’s and Tooba Mohammad Yahya’s surviving children, the first to testify at the first-degree murder trial of their parents and oldest brother, Hamed.

    The boy’s name is protected by a publication ban.

    He was just 15 when on June 30, 2009, three of his sisters – Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, then respectively 19, 17 and 13 – and their purported aunt, 52-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, who was in fact his father’s unacknowledged first wife, were found dead in a submerged black Nissan at the Kingston Mills locks outside town.

    Mr. Shafia, 59, Ms. Yahya, who Monday turned 42, and Hamed, 20, all are pleading not guilty in the drowning deaths of the four.

    A handsome, engaging and bright young fellow, the boy took the witness stand here Monday, called by his father’s lawyer, Peter Kemp.

    There, the boy repeated the story given repeatedly by his parents and brother to Kingston Police and, last week, given again to Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and a jury when Mr. Shafia testified in his own defence.

    That story is essentially that theirs was a good, liberal-minded, happy family struck by bewildering tragedy.

    But the boy went far beyond that.

    He agreed that he and his siblings, especially Sahar, had told teachers and others that there were major problems at home, but that was all part of the kids’ plan, he said, to win sympathy and special treatment.

    “The teachers felt we were victims, that we were being abused at home, weren’t loved,” he said in his smiley way.

    Why, that was how they got away with throwing snowballs in the hall, setting off stink bombs, skipping classes.

    “They never called us out,” the boy said. “They felt sorry for us.” He even said that after Sahar began really laying on the drama, all their marks soared.

    For the record, a dozen teachers, school officials, Montreal police officers and social workers have testified at trial.

    They painted a picture of a family in crisis, with the girls noticeably sad and fearful of their father and Hamed. The child-protection workers deemed the allegations of abuse to be true, though they closed the file nonetheless; perhaps they alone saw through what the boy described as the children’s cunning manipulation.

    When Mr. Kemp fleetingly mentioned this collective testimony, the boy denied it flatly.

    “Sahar was very happy at home,” he said, adding that the girl repeatedly described as scared, suicidal and sad was downright “joyful.” ...

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    The boy also stuck to the family narrative that Zaina was absolutely thirsting to drive and that it was probably her, taking the Nissan out for a late-night joy ride, who caused the fatal accident.

    But he added the tidbit that just days before, he himself had tooled around with her in the car in a hotel parking lot in Niagara Falls, where the sprawling Afghan clan had gone on holiday.

    The boy even hinted that perhaps it was he who had conducted the Google search made infamous at trial – “where to commit a murder” – on a family laptop.

    He wasn’t absolutely sure he did it, he said, but at the time Zainab had run away from home, in April of 2009, he was depressed and thinking about suicide – a first-time revelation.

    So it wouldn’t be a surprise to him, he told his brother’s lawyer, Peter McCann, if in his searches on “suicide,” he had typed in “murder” instead. He didn’t know the S word then, he said. Murder meant the same thing to him.

    But the murder search was made on June 20, well after Zainab had returned home and the boy’s presumed depression had lifted.

    By the wee hours of July 22, when Kingston Police wiretaps recorded the boy in frantic conversation with Hamed, he had become so familiar with “suicide” that he was obsessed with the subject.

    This was the brief period that fell between the removal of the boy and his siblings from the parental home in Montreal and the police interviews of the boy and the other children, all of which happened on July 21, and the arrest of Mr. Shafia, Ms. Yahya and Hamed on July 22.

    The boy had called the family from the temporary foster home where the children had been placed.

    It was evident that what he wanted Hamed in particular to realize was that the officer who interviewed him said “we have suspicion that it’s your mother, father and brother, OK?”

    Apparent from the conversation is that Hamed and the boy realized that bad news was their way coming.

    “Hamed,” he said, “like this thing, ummm, like Hamed, should I kill myself Hamed?”

    “No man,” his brother replied. “Don’t do anything like that.”

    “Look, Hamed, you are 100% caught….”

    The boy called back a short time later.

    He spoke first to his mother, who asked, “Did they ask you too about what’s happened? The things you said before, did you tell them the same thing?”

    “Yeah,” the boy said. “OK,” Ms. Yahya replied. “Well done.”

    Then he spoke to Hamed again. He said he’d pointed out to the police that he was the baddest child, “but they didn’t kill me and everything.”

    Hamed was more mournful in this call. “I guess that’s the thing, jails is it,” he said.

    “So is that the ending then?” the boy asked, and then, seconds later, said, “If nothing happens, the best thing is everyone suicide. Or we can fight till the end.”

    Hamed appeared to understand arrest was imminent, and told the boy, “Don’t be shocked when you hear anything,” which the boy took as a reference to suicide. “Don’t do anything stupid. ’Cause Hamed, you guys think of suicide and all that, don’t do it. OK?”

    The boy went even further. While being questioned by Mr. McCann, he volunteered that he’d been reading the newspapers and he didn’t recognize the way his father and Hamed were portrayed, as a one-two dictatorial punch in the family.

    “I don’t even know these people [in the papers], it’s like they set up a completely different character. All that isn’t true.”

    This Shafia apple, it appears, didn’t fall far from the Shafia tree.


  46. ‘Why not me?’: Younger Shafia brother takes stand in alleged ‘honour killing’ case

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News December 12, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ontario — A brother of three teenaged Montreal girls found dead in a submerged car told investigators he refused to believe his parents had murdered the girls and his aunt, the 52-year-old woman who was actually his father’s first wife.

    “I used to do the most [bad] stuff so why not me,” the young man wonders, in a videotaped interview with a Kingston police officer that was recorded July 21, 2009, the day before his father, mother and older brother were arrested and each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

    The video was played in court Monday morning after the young man was called to testify as a defence witness.

    He wrote frequently on a written transcript of the interview as it was played for jurors.

    He has not yet been asked any questions.

    A court order bars publication of his name.

    Sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead inside a car that was discovered at the bottom of a shallow canal in Kingston, Ont., on June 30, 2009.

    Rona Mohammad was Mohammad Shafia’s first wife. He married her in his native Afghanistan before the family moved to Canada in 2007.

    Three weeks after the victims were found, Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed 20, were arrested and each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

    They have pleaded not guilty.

    The brother of the victims told police, in the July 21 interview, the children had called police in April 2009 because they feared their father.

    Jurors already have heard Montreal Police were called to the Shafia home on April 17, and were told several of the children complained of abuse by their father and older brother.

    “He had given us some slaps,” the boy tells a Kingston police officer, in the videotaped interview. He says, on the tape, he was slapped three or four times and that two of his sisters were slapped.

    The boy told the Kingston officer his father slapped him when he tried to intervene in the assaults on his sisters.

    “I said, ‘You can’t touch us like that,’ ” he says, on the tape.

    The boy said his father swore at him and told him to shut up.

    His father was angry, he said, because the children had returned home at 9 p.m.

    The young man tells the officer he fell asleep in the vehicle on the evening of June 29 as the family drove home to Montreal from Niagara Falls, Ont. He said he was shaken awake by his father at 1:53 a.m., he had checked the time, and got out of the vehicle and went into a motel room where he immediately fell asleep.

    When he awoke the next morning, he was told four family members and the family’s other vehicle were missing.

    Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing, orchestrated by Shafia because he felt his reputation had been tarnished.

    Jurors have heard the three teenaged sisters were defying family rules, consorting with boys and dressing in revealing clothing.


  47. ‘It was an accident,’ younger brother tells Shafia trial prosecutor

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News December 13, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — The teenaged boy whose three sisters were found dead in a submerged car in 2009 knew immediately it was an accident, although he knew nothing about the police investigation, he told jurors Tuesday.

    “I knew for a fact it was an accident,” the boy, who is now 18, testified, during cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis.

    The boy, whose identity is protected by a court order, was called as a defence witness in the murder trial against his parents and older brother.

    The Crown began questioning him Tuesday morning.

    Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

    They have pleaded not guilty to killing Zainab, 19, Sahar; 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Mr. Shafia’s first wife.

    The victims were found inside a submerged Nissan Sentra discovered on June 30, 2009, at the bottom of a shallow canal in Kingston, Ont.

    Prosecutors allege the deaths were an honour killing, arranged by Mr. Shafia because he felt his daughters had shamed him by taking boyfriends, dressing in revealing clothes and disobeying him. Rona Mohammad reportedly wanted a divorce.

    The accused have said that they believe their rebellious daughter Zainab took the family car on a joyride without permission and crashed it into the canal. She did not have a driver’s licence.

    The witness insisted he told police everything he knew because he wanted to help them explain the deaths. Mr. Laarhuis noted that in a conversation with his brother the morning before the arrests, secretly recorded by police, the boy did not suggest that anyone else could be responsible for the deaths.

    “I don’t think anyone else is responsible for what happened to my sisters,” he responded. It was an accident.”

    He said he knew his parents would not do it and he could not “think of anyone else who would.”

    The boy said his sister Zainab secretly drove one of the family’s cars in Niagara Falls, Ont., while they were on vacation there in June 2009. He said she told him she was caught by her father.

    Mr. Laarhius asked what punishment was meted out for this serious breach of family rules.

    The boy said he didn’t know, although he has testified that he was very close to Zainab and they shared secrets.

    “All she told me was that dad caught her,” he testified.


  48. Chuckling and denials as younger brother testifies in Shafia trial

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post December 13, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ont. — As the boy himself remarked once, “Love takes you far.”

    He is the very embodiment, admirable and ignoble at the same time, of that sentiment. It is love or something like it that has brought him to Ontario Superior Court here as a defence witness for his family.

    The boy was being cross-examined Tuesday by prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis. In particular, he was trying to explain his end of a frantic phone conversation he had with his big brother Hamed on the day in July 2009 when he and the other surviving children of Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Mohammad Yahya were removed by child-protection authorities from their home in Montreal. It was also the day before Hamed and their parents were arrested in the deaths of almost half the family.

    The three are pleading not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder in the June 30, 2009, drowning deaths of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti — they were 19, 17, and 13 — and Shafia’s unacknowledged first wife, 52-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad.

    The conversation in question was one of many wiretapped by Kingston Police.

    In it, the first thing the boy told Hamed was that the police had come to talk to them hours earlier and that “we (children) didn’t call them, OK, first of all to let you know, OK.” In other words, he wanted Hamed to know the children had not blown the whistle on them.

    “You’re reporting in to your brother?” Laarhuis said.

    “Yeah,” the boy replied.

    “Why?” Laarhuis asked.

    “Love takes you far,” the boy said. “I care for him. I just wanted him to know what happened.”

    From this and other wiretaps in evidence before Judge Robert Maranger and a jury, it seemed the boy was running by Hamed what he’d told the police, just as their mother later that same night had checked with her offspring, all but the little one, to be sure their stories were all aligned and squared away.

    “So don’t tell them that I spoke to you,” the boy told Hamed.

    Laarhuis said, “It’s clear that you and Hamed had information you didn’t want the police to know?”

    The boy disagreed — mind you, if the prosecutor gave him the time, he would have disagreed with that too — and snapped, “Whatever I said, which is the truth, I want them (Hamed and their parents) to say too, even in details.”

    “Well,” said Laarhuis, “that’s the remarkable thing about the truth, isn’t it? You don’t need to rehearse it.”

    There’s the rub, for the boy, and for his father who testified before him last week: There is abundant evidence before the jurors, found chiefly in the wiretaps, that the official story recited by the Shafias was all of a well-practised piece. In these conversations they assumed were private, this family, throughout the 22 days between the supposedly bewildering deaths and their arrests, was besotted not with grief but with rage and were consumed with parroting the same thing and with finding out what the Kingston Police knew or didn’t.

    continued in next comment


  49. continued from previous comment:

    So there was the boy, sticking tenaciously to the family narrative, at one point saying, “I don’t think anyone else is responsible for what happened to my sisters. I think it was an accident. I know for a fact it was an accident based on, my parents wouldn’t do it, and I can’t think of anyone else who would.”

    “You already knew who was responsible, didn’t you?” Laarhuis asked.

    “No,” said the boy, and here he actually smirked, “I did not.”

    “Your only issue was whether the police had enough proof?” Laarhuis said.

    “False proof,” the boy replied, sounding so like his mother had in her lengthy post-arrest interview with police. Yahya was obsessed with finding out from her interrogator what “proof” the police had.

    The boy’s own version was often contradictory.

    He claimed, for instance, to have been very close to his older sister Zainab, but appeared to have known little about her life, at least as the jurors have heard it described, and like his parents and Hamed, he blamed her for her own death and for the purported accident: It was she who so wanted to drive and who took the car out for the fatal spin that night.

    Once, he even joked about Zainab’s purported skill behind the wheel.

    “What I can say,” the boy said with a pleased chuckle, “is that I drove better than her.”

    Where a dozen other witnesses have testified about the almost magnificent dysfunction of the sprawling Afghan clan, in particular about the striking unhappiness and fear they saw in Sahar, the boy pronounced her happy, even joyful, in her life. All of her misery was feigned, he said, part of the children’s plan to win sympathy and special favours at school.

    These were his dead sisters he was diminishing, denying and chuckling about. He was 15 when they died; they had been teenagers in that house together, were together, if in two different cars, that June night.

    He denied whatever was troubling, or might have been difficult for the three people sitting in the prisoner’s box. He claimed not to recall or to have paid much attention to what might have stood out for a grief-stricken brother — how his sisters looked when he last saw them alive, what he and the girls had talked about. He admitted having manipulated police, child-welfare workers, teachers at school.

    “Where do you draw the line on manipulating and telling lies?” Laarhuis asked.

    “Uhhh,” the boy said, physically squirming in the box. “When it goes too far.”

    But with lying, as with love, distance is hard to measure.


  50. Younger Shafia brother grilled on the stand over possible murder conspiracy

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News Dec 14, 2011

    KINGSTON, Ontario — After six hours of sometimes fierce questioning, the son of Montreal parents who are accused of killing their three daughters insisted that he would not lie to help them.

    Defence lawyer Peter Kemp asked the 18-year-old man what he had to say about suggestions by prosecutors that there was a conspiracy between him and other family members to fabricate evidence and cover up for his parents and older brother.

    “Well, what I can say is that that doesn’t sound right and as court heard, when my dad had slapped my sisters, I stepped in and if I stepped in when my dad only hit my sisters, how could I cover up for him if he did something like that and I would absolutely not do anything like that,” the teen testified.

    The comments came as the teen was re-examined by Kemp, who had called him as a witness. Prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis completed his questioning of the teen Wednesday morning. A court order bars publication of his name.

    The teen’s parents, Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and his older brother, Hamed, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty to killing Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife. He married her in his native Afghanistan before the family moved to Canada in 2007.

    Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing.

    The teen acknowledged, during questioning by Laarhuis, that he fabricated stories and manipulated police and teachers, along with his sister Sahar, in a bid to get special treatment and sympathy at school. He insisted that he was telling the truth about the deaths of his sisters and stepmother, though he claimed he never knew that Rona was his father’s first wife.

    When it was clear his testimony was complete, he looked at the judge, Justice Robert Maranger, and made a plaintive request.

    “Could I have the permission to hug my parents goodbye?” he asked, in a soft voice.

    Maranger had a puzzled look and leaned toward him, asking him to repeat what he had said.

    “Could I have permission to see my parents, say goodbye?” the teen asked.

    “Your honour, we’ve had discussion about this and we’re addressing it,” Laarhuis interjected. “It will be addressed, now’s not the time.”

    “You’ll have to wait on that,” Maranger told the witness.

    The teen left the courtroom, waving weakly to his family members in the prisoner’s box as he passed them. Yahya and Shafia began crying.


  51. Shafia son’s request to say goodbye to parents denied by judge

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post December 14, 2011

    ... No accused person in Canada, of course, is ever required to put forth a defence; the burden remains with the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And the decision to call the accused himself is considered risky among the defence bar: If prosecutors have put together a strong case, it may strike jurors curious if the accused doesn’t explain himself, but on the other hand, if the accused has credibility problems, he can be more of a liability than an asset.

    In his testimony, Mr. Shafia aptly demonstrated the perils. ... His version — of himself, of family life and of the fatal trip to Niagara Falls that ended with the Nissan in the canal — clashed magnificently with the bulk of the testimony.

    And that was before Mr. Shafia was skewered in cross-examination by prosecutor Laurie Lacelle.

    The 18-year-old son who followed him to the witness box fared no better.

    In his last exchanges Wednesday with Ms. Lacelle’s colleague, prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis, the boy admitted to no fewer than 10 revisions or additions to his evidence.

    These ranged from small revelations (such as his suggestion that Zainab “did what she wanted” and wasn’t controlled by their father or anyone else) to stunning ones, as when he claimed it might have been him who conducted the infamous “where to commit a murder” Google search, not Hamed, and his bizarre insistence that Sahar and Geeti were faking unhappiness, even suicidal thoughts, to win sympathy from their teachers.

    All of these changes to an earlier statement he gave police just weeks after his sisters died were, as Mr. Laarhuis put it, supportive of “your mother and Dad and Hamed”?

    “I guess,” the boy replied.

    “And all support their theory that it was all Zainab’s fault?” Mr. Laarhuis said, referring to the family narrative that the deaths were a tragic accident caused when the oldest daughter took the Nissan out for a late-night joy ride.

    “I guess,” said the boy.

    When his cross-examination ended, the boy whispered to Judge Maranger, who asked him to repeat what he’d said.

    “Do I have permission to go say my parents goodbye?” the boy asked.

    “We’ve had discussions,” Mr. Laarhuis said. “Now’s not the time.”

    Looking a little stricken, the judge agreed and said no. The boy instead waved at the three in the prisoner’s box, whereupon his mother burst into tears.

    If it was a poignant moment, it was less telling than the first exchange of the day between Mr. Laarhuis and the boy.

    The prosecutor had asked him if it wasn’t true that “thoughts of death and dying were close in the minds of most of the children in the family?”

    “How come?” the boy said.

    Mr. Laarhuis then rhymed off what the jurors already knew — that the boy himself in one wiretapped conversation had suggested to Hamed that “everybody suicide”; that Zainab had run away and was even by the boy’s account “depressed”; that Sahar had tried to kill herself, though the boy discounted that as faking.

    Then Mr. Laarhuis dropped the bombshell: That after the arrests of his parents and brother, when a court order prevented them from having contact with the surviving children (precisely in case they were called as witnesses), he and a sibling, whose name is also protected, had also talked about killing themselves.

    “She asked you to get some poison so you and she could kill yourselves?”

    “Yeah,” the boy said.

    When he waved goodbye to the trio in the prisoner’s box, it was to the people who built the house and the family where suicide was a verb and death a constant companion.

    The trial resumes Jan. 9.

    read the full article at:


  52. Shafia mother breaks down as alleged ‘honour-killing’ trial resumes

    by Rob Tripp, National Post Staff January 9, 2012

    KINGSTON, Ont. — A Montreal woman accused of killing three daughters and her husband’s first wife began to cry — just moments into her testimony — as she recounted her decision to give one of her children to the woman with whom she shared her husband’s affection.

    “I told Rona, ‘Take your child,’ ” Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, testified.


    Yahya testified Monday morning that she was not aware that Mohammad had ever asked for a divorce. For most of her hour and a half on the witness stand, she spoke clearly and calmly, usually looking directly at her defence lawyer, David Crowe.

    But she began to cry early in her testimony when she described her decision to give her third-born child, Sahar, to the infertile Mohammad to raise as her own.

    Yahya also testified that the family’s seven children were never disciplined physically, save one occasion when Shafia struck several of the children because they had returned home in the evening after their curfew.

    She said Shafia’s typical tactic for punishing bad behaviour was to swear at the children and make a big deal out of small issues. She testified that he would talk about an issue exhaustively, to the point of irritating the children.

    Yahya testified that after Mohammad’s death, the family found her diary, a document presented in evidence by prosecutors. In the document, Mohammad alleges that she was isolated and abused in the family, particularly by Yahya, and lived a miserable life.

    Yahya testified that she glanced through the diary but made no effort to hide or destroy it.

    Her testimony continues Monday afternoon.


    read the full article at:


  53. Shafia mother disputes accounts in diary

    CBC News January 9, 2012

    The Montreal woman accused of killing three teenage daughters and her husband's other wife took the witness stand in her own defence Monday to dispute claims she had rocky relationships with family members.


    Within minutes of her testimony, Yahya broke down in tears, causing a brief delay in proceedings, as she recounted her relationship with her husband's other wife. Yahya said she felt sorry for Rona Amir because she wasn't able to bear children, adding she even gave the woman her daughter Sahar to raise.


    After taking the stand, Yahya maintained she had a good relationship with Rona Amir, despite the fact that Amir had written in her diary that Yahya "separated Shafie from me forever" and "took the power of the household from me."

    Yahya testified she and Shafia never limited the other wife's movements or her finances.

    She told the court she found the diary while cleaning the house after the deaths.

    "It didn't have any meaning for us. I just put it there on the table. There was no need for me to hide that or burn that," she told the court.

    Yahya also testified that when her husband returned from a business trip, she would not tell him about any disciplinary issues with the children, "because of his habit to make small things — he used to make it a big thing."

    She said one time she saw Shafia strike the children, but that the parents would always try to verbally discipline them or take away their allowance instead.

    Yahya testified the Shafia children did not fast for Islam's holy month of Ramadan. She said her husband didn't want them to because he was concerned it would "stunt their growth."

    She said she taught the children about their religion, but did not force it on them. The defence showed a number of family photos and noted that most of the female members seen in them were not wearing the Islamic hijab head-covering.

    The defence later questioned Yahya about another claim in the diary, where Rona Amir writes about a suicide attempt by Sahar after an argument. In the diary, Rona describes the girl swallowing the preservative that comes in purses and Yahya dismissing it, saying, "Let her kill herself."

    Yahya presented a different version of what happened. She didn't deny that Sahar swallowed the preservative, but said she spit it up and refused medical attention. She said Sahar frequently said, "I'll kill myself" when she didn't get her way.

    Yahya said one of Sahar's teachers offered her an explanation for the girl's behaviour. She told the court the teacher said, "Because you love her a lot, she is abusing this emotion whenever she wants expensive things."


    read the full article at:


  54. Shafia mother tells trial she lied to police over fears son Hamed would be tortured

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News January 10, 2012

    ... During Tooba Mohammad Yahya’s second day on the witness stand, she offered the admission about her changing explanations to investigators about critical events on June 29 and June 30 of 2009.


    On the day the trio was arrested, Yahya told an officer she was at the canal early that morning when the Nissan plunged into the water. She said she did not see what happened — it was very dark — and she fainted from shock. The next day, she recanted the claim that she was at the canal when the car went into the water.

    In her testimony Tuesday morning, Yahya said she feared that Hamed was going to be tortured by authorities so she fabricated the story that she had been at the canal.

    “I would have done whatever I was able to do . . . and (thought), ‘Please don’t touch Hamed and he’s innocent,’” Yahya testified.

    She said she would have given up her life to save him. Yahya testified that she realized, as she sat in a police cell overnight, that “one lie” can cause a lot of problems, so she took it back.

    Under questioning by Crown prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis, Yahya refused to concede that it was a lie when she was first interviewed by police and told them that Mohammad was her husband’s cousin.

    “I was not thinking about those small stuff,” she said, in explaining why she didn’t reveal that Mohammad was Shafia’s first wife in the polygamous family. “It didn’t cross my mind to bring that up.”

    “Well, it did cross your mind and what you decided to do was tell a lie,” Laarhuis shot back.

    “No, that wasn’t the case . . . he wasn’t an immigration lawyer,” Yahya responded. She explained that the family had told immigration authorities Mohammad was a cousin so that she could get into the country and she didn’t believe it was necessary to tell police investigating the deaths anything different.

    “You did not want the police to know that Rona was Shafia’s wife because that would be very suspicious because then it was his wife who was dead,” Laarhuis suggested.

    “Look, sir, our matter was bigger than what happened to Rona,” Yahya replied.

    Laarhuis grilled her about her testimony about a photo album of family snapshots that police found in the Shafia home in Montreal when they searched it on July 21, 2009.

    Yahya said, in response to questions from her lawyer and from Peter Kemp, Shafia’s lawyer, that the album was found in Sahar’s bedroom sometime between July 5 and July 7. It contained photos of Sahar wearing revealing clothes, hugging her boyfriend and also snapshots of her in a bra and underwear. Shafia testified previously that he did not know Sahar had a boyfriend until he saw the photos.

    Shafia, who had been sad and depressed since the deaths, became angry after seeing the photos, Yahya testified. She said the photos shocked him and led him to utter many of the foul curses that were heard on secret police recordings.

    Shafia was heard on recordings introduced at the trial calling his daughters “whores” and saying: “May the devil shit on their graves.”

    Yahya said she removed many photos from the album and put them into a suitcase so that Shafia wouldn’t keep looking at them.

    Laarhuis pointed out that when television reporters interviewed Yahya and Shafia on July 2, they were videotaped as they leafed through what appeared to be the same distinctive photo album.

    “Would it surprise you to know though, that in those media interviews you’re actually looking at the very album that’s an exhibit here in this courtroom today?” Laarhuis asked.

    “Sir, if I show my home to you, I have 10 of albums, which they’re all the same,” Yahya replied.

    “The album, it’s got princess right on the cover, it’s pink, you’re telling me you’ve got 10 albums in your house?” Laarhuis asked incredulously.


    read the full article at:


  55. Shafia mom says teen's photos not a 'dishonour'

    CBC News January 11, 2012

    The Montreal mother accused in the deaths of her three daughters and her husband's first wife told a Kingston, Ont., courtroom Wednesday that photos of one of the girls in revealing clothing was not a dishonour to her.

    "[Sahar] was young, it doesn't matter if she took those pictures at that time," Tooba Yahya testified, adding that all teenagers take such images.


    "If they took naked pictures, it wasn't a dishonour," Yahya said earlier Wednesday to a packed courtroom on her third day of testimony.

    The Crown grilled Yahya on specific details relating to the discovery of racy photos of her daughters.

    She appeared tired and a number of spectators left the courtroom towards the end of the day. At one point, Yahya said she could not remember the date of the funeral for her three daughters.

    The photos, which depicted her two oldest daughters with their boyfriends and wearing lingerie, have been central to the case. The Crown is trying to nail down exactly when they were discovered by the family.

    Yahya has testified she found the pictures several days after the bodies of the four women were discovered in the Kingston Mills lock in June 2009.

    However, media interviews show the family holding a nearly identical album in the immediate aftermath of the deaths. Yahya has said they had several identical books.

    The photos set the elder Shafia off on an angry tirade — recorded by police — in which he claimed he would cut his daughters with a cleaver if they ever returned to life, and "may the devil shit on their graves."

    Yahya testified on Tuesday that Shafia was simply venting his rage, and he had only discovered the photos in mid-July 2009 in a hiding place in the family's Montreal home.

    Part of the Crown's case involved testimony from two of the girls' boyfriends in what are alleged to have been forbidden relationships.

    The prosecution also questioned Yahya about condoms found in the room belonging to Geeti, Sahar and Amir, which were discovered by their father shortly after their deaths. Why hadn't they sparked the same sort of outrage from him that the pictures had, she was asked.

    Yahya testified that Shafia gave them to her but that they "didn't have much value" because they likely belonged to the elder sister Zainab, who was briefly married for 24 hours in May 2009.

    Yahya was also queried about an incident in which a boyfriend of Zainab's was discovered in their home but made to leave by brother Hamed.

    She said that episode prompted a concern that Zainab might commit suicide, something Yahya said happened in cases of forbidden love in her native Afghanistan.

    "You heard about that but you never heard about honour killings in Afghanistan?" prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis asked, referring to a statement made by Yahya on Tuesday.

    "No, I never heard such a stupid thing," she said.

    The Crown also grilled Yahya aggressively on her previous claim that she lied to police about being at the scene of the deaths to prevent her co-accused son Hamed from being tortured.

    On July 22, 2009, Yahya told police she was at the lock and heard a splash before fainting and then waking up the next morning. She later recanted that version of events.

    "How was that story going to save him from being tortured?" prosecutor Laarhuis asked Wednesday.

    Yahya replied that she was telling the officer what she thought he wanted to hear.


    read the full article at:


  56. Afghanistan excuses don’t work for Shafia mother’s contradictions

    Christie Blatchford, National Post January 12, 2012

    It was a classic of its kind, a real Tooba-ism.

    Prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis was putting to said Tooba Mohammad Yahya some of what she had told police in earlier videotaped statements.

    This is an absolute staple of cross-examination, its purpose to establish the witness is contradicting herself. Such contradictions are called inconsistencies, or what outside court are sometimes called lies.

    Mr. Laarhuis already had established that after her arrest, in a long and winding interview with RCMP Inspector Shahin Mehdizadeh, who was brought in as a Farsi-speaking expert by Kingston Police, Ms. Yahya at one point said that on the critical night when half her family was wiped out, she had fallen asleep in the family Lexus and had never driven again that night.

    Now, in her imitable fashion, Ms. Yahya was denying it.

    “Were you in the Lexus?” Mr. Laarhuis asked.

    “No, not,” she replied.

    “So,” Mr. Laarhuis said in a brilliant bit, “when you said you fell asleep in the Lexus and didn’t drive anymore, what you meant was that you didn’t fall asleep and you drove the Nissan?”


    What has emerged, most clearly from her evidence though it was there in Mr. Shafia’s too, is a thread of pathology, and how this family hides behind the purported practices both of their native Afghanistan and of their religion, Islam.

    This, remember, is a family which fled Afghanistan in 1992, and, being wealthy, to live in comfort in Pakistan, Dubai and Australia before immigrating to Canada in 2007. This is a family who had lived in Montreal for two years, but who didn’t know where the local mosque was and who had to ask relatives to hustle up a rent-a-cleric when Zainab was briefly wed (and then the marriage annulled).

    Yet, how many times Ms. Yahya has lectured Mr. Laarhuis, and Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and the jurors, about the presumed superiority of Afghan culture, and used it to explain her family’s conduct. How many times has she has explained inconsistencies in her evidence by saying, “Well, in the Farsi language, when we say ‘fall asleep,’ we mean to lie down,” or, “When we say ‘vomiting,’ we say that when we throw something out from the stomach,” as though the word means something else in French or English.

    The most grating example of this, of course, is her claim that when Mr. Shafia, caught on a police wiretap, famously cursed his dead daughters as whores and said, “May the devil s— on their graves!”, he was merely indulging his bad temper by using a common Afghan expression.

    It may be common, but bets are it is not in wide use among parents whose children have just died.

    Ms. Yahya had the misfortune of being born into a misogynistic, male-dominated culture in a war-and-strife-torn country, where people are necessarily hard.

    But she hasn’t lived there for two decades. She herself is pretty darned Westernized. She has a licence and drives; from the family photographs the jurors have seen, she doesn’t wear the hijab very often. And she is one tough nut to crack.

    Perhaps the most telling thing she has uttered came Thursday, when Mr. Laarhuis was asking why, when Mr. Shafia had cursed his daughters as filth, she didn’t speak up on their behalf.

    “You should ask him,” she said furiously. “He’s a separate person, why don’t you ask him.”

    A separate person, as she must be then too, not just a husband’s chattel.

    How nice to know that.

    read the full article at:


  57. Shafia mom tells court 'we're not murderers'

    CBC News January 13, 2012

    [...] "No sir, we are not murderers. We are a very sincere family.… If you were a mother, then you could have known what is a heart of a mother for a child. Don't ever tell me that I killed my children," Yahya said.

    Laarhuis alleges the accused drove the victims directly to the locks. He said somebody left the car running, rolled down the window, put the gearshift in neutral and aimed the wheels of the car. Laarhuis said that next someone reached through the open window and put the car into gear, thinking that on its own power, the vehicle would go into the water.

    "What you did not expect, what was not part of the plan, was that the Nissan would get hung up. There was now an emergency, now you had bodies in the car hung up on the edge of the canal," Laarhuis said. Laarhius said that Shafia or his son got behind the wheel of their Lexus and, as described by a collision expert, hit the Nissan into the canal, damaging both vehicles and causing the Nissan to spin as it sank.

    But Yahya denied the account.

    The prosecutor has made the suggestion that the three daughters and Amir were dead when their bodies were put in the car then pushed into the water. However, there's been no proof offered to the court of the theory. A forensic expert who testified said the cause of death was drowning, but he couldn't say whether the four family members drowned in the canal locks or elsewhere.


    Earlier Friday, Yahya was questioned by Laarhuis about her brother's claim that her husband told him he was planning to kill their 19-year-old daughter Zainab. Yahya said in court that she didn't know about her brother's claim regarding the threat until the funeral and that her husband and her brother had been "enemies"

    "How could I have believed [him]?" she said. "How is it possible that I can accept someone who is [an] enemy of 20 years?"

    She said if her brother was concerned about the safety of the children, he should have called police and told her about her husband's alleged plan. Laarhuis asked Yahya if she felt there would have been a risk to her own safety if she called police and left with the children.

    "I never expected that from Shafie," she said. "I never expected Shafie to be such a person to kill his children.… If a person knows their children are in danger, a person will do all the things to safeguard the life of their children."

    Yahya was not suggesting that Shafia was involved in deaths, only that she never felt unsafe or that Shafia wasn't the type of person who would harm her or the children. Yahya also testified on Friday that it's common for Afghan men who are angry at their daughters to call them "whores."

    Yahya was questioned by Laarhuis about several incidents when her husband was angered by his children. Shafia is heard on wiretaps before their arrests calling the deceased girls treacherous and whores.

    Yahya testified that the level of anger heard on those wiretaps was the same kind of anger Shafia expressed during incidents where he believed the girls misbehaved.

    "Kids would hear these rants and uncontrollable rage and you're saying that didn't cause you any concern for the safety of your children?" Laarhuis asked.

    "These are something that was recorded in our ears for many years. Most Afghan people are the same. When they are angry they are telling and swearing. It's not just Shafia but most Afghan men and women. They are the same," Yahya said.

    Laarhuis asked Yahya if she was saying that Afghan men, when they're mad at their daughters, routinely call them whores.

    "Sometimes when they get very angry — yes," Yahya said. [...]

    read the full article at:


  58. Accusations, kisses fly as Shafia mother wraps up testimony

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post January 16, 2012

    And on the sixth day, the prosecutor rested, and Tooba Mohammad Yahya, smiling serenely, left the witness stand and resumed her seat in the prisoner’s box alongside her husband and their eldest son.


    As Gerard Laarhuis had saved some of his most ghastly suggestions for the last, so did Ms. Yahya save her snappiest answers.

    He suggested Ms. Yahya’s job was to lull the four women, already sleepy after a long drive from a purported family vacation in Niagara Falls, into a sense of security by staying with them in the Nissan as they waited for death, in the form of either Mohammad Shafia or Hamed Shafia, to tap them on the shoulder.

    “You were waiting” in the black Nissan with them, Mr. Laarhuis charged, “waiting, and keeping the women calm?”

    “That’s wrong,” Ms. Yahya said.

    “The final part of your plan was being carried out?” he asked.

    “No sir,” she said. “You guys made it up and you [and a police interrogator] made me lie that way.”

    In fact, virtually every time Mr. Laarhuis suggested she was at the locks that night — she herself once told police all three of them were there, a statement she recanted as a lie the next morning and ever since — Ms. Yahya’s response was to accuse him.

    “No dear sir,” she snapped once, “this is what is made up in your brain.”

    Another time, she reprimanded this serious and scrupulously fair man for making up stories, saying, “This a court date, this is a date people want to know the truth, not stories made up in your mind!”

    On yet another occasion, she waved off a question with this: “No dear sir, it’s you who thinks that way … you put a respectful family, three people which was grieving, you guys put us under arrest.

    “You caused me to lie.”

    In another mini-outburst, Ms. Yahya said, “You brought under suspicion a respectful family in jail for two and a half years. I was a lady from [another country]. I had never seen a police station in my life!”

    If it was on one level a bravura performance — the 42-year-old Ms. Yahya does not lack for chutzpah — it was also a preposterous one. Ms. Yahya’s difficulties stemmed not from anything Mr. Laarhuis concocted, but from the inconsistent explanations she has given to police and in court.

    Take, for instance, the notion the trio was grieving after the deaths.

    Kingston Police wiretaps put the kibosh on that: In multiple taped conversations, the 59-year-old Mr. Shafia luridly cursed the dead as filth and whores while his son and wife were either silent or muttering their own agreement.

    Unusually, Ms. Yahya’s weren’t the only theatrics of the day.

    She of course had been called to the stand by her own lawyer, David Crowe, and when she was finally finished, Mr. Crowe called his next witness, one of Mr. Shafia’s half-sisters, Farida Nayebkheil.


    Ms. Nayebkheil, who knew her brother well only as a young woman in their native Afghanistan, before the siblings scattered across the globe, described a man who was “always proud” of her for going to university and who fit into their affluent and “educated and liberal-minded family.”

    But Ms. Lacelle, who is the surgeon-general of the lawyers here, quickly elicited from her the fact that she knew little of Mr. Shafia the adult — least of all that he had morphed into a man who equated short skirts and bikinis with whorish behaviour. The two were so close that Mr. Shafia never let her know he’d lost four members of his family; from Denmark, where she lives, Ms. Nayebkheil heard of it on the news and phoned him.


    read the full article at:


  59. There was simply no time for a murder, defence lawyer argues

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News January 24, 2012

    Mohammad Shafia, an Afghan immigrant who brought his 10-member family to Montreal in 2007, had no motive to kill four of them and he did not have time to murder them on the morning they were found dead, jurors at his murder trial were told Tuesday.

    “They all drowned accidentally,” said lawyer Peter Kemp, who represents Shafia, in his two-hour closing address to jurors.

    Kemp spoke first as the three-month-long murder trial moved into its final phase, with lawyers and the judge addressing jurors before they begin deliberating.

    Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder, for what the Crown alleges were the honour killings of three of the couple’s daughters and Shafia’s first wife. They are accused of killing Shafia sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife in the polygamous family.

    The victims, who had drowned, were found dead inside a Nissan Sentra that was discovered submerged on June 30, 2009, at Kingston Mills, a lock station on the Rideau Canal in eastern Ontario.

    Forensic experts could not determine where and how the victims drowned. Prosecutors allege the scene was staged to look like an accident and the victims were slain in an honour killing — an ancient practice in some South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures in which a woman or girl can be killed if she is perceived to have shamed the family, often through promiscuity or disobedience.

    Kemp told jurors that friction in the Shafia household and allegations of mistreatment and restrictive family rules were blown out of proportion and that some of the children were prone to exaggeration and lying. The lawyer said Shafia was a liberal and loving father who moved his family to four new countries in a bid to ensure the children had access to good educations and freedom from oppression. This is at odds, he suggested, with the prosecution’s portrait of a tyrannical and murderous parent.

    “You would have to accept that the father of seven children, who had spent the last 20 years providing for them all around the world, who was in the process of building a large new home for them, for no apparent reason, became so black, so dark, so evil, that he would cold bloodedly plan the execution of three of them and carry out that plan,” Kemp said, his voice rising.

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    The lawyer also sketched a suggested timeline for the critical eight-hour period, beginning at midnight June 29. The Shafia family was returning to Montreal from a vacation in Niagara Falls, Ont., travelling in two vehicles, when they decided to stop in Kingston and stay overnight at a motel.

    Kemp said cellphone records and highway camera recordings establish there was no time for the three accused to carry out a complex murder in which the victims were drowned at another location, then put into the Nissan before it was pushed into the canal.

    “There was simply no time for a murder as opposed to an accident,” Kemp said.

    Shafia testified that after they checked into the Kingston motel around 2 a.m., his daughter Zainab asked for and received the keys to the Nissan, ostensibly to retrieve clothes. In the morning, Shafia and Yahya realized that the car and the four family members were missing. They surmised, after the deaths, that Zainab took the car for a joyride and crashed it into the canal at the isolated and unlit location.

    “You don’t know why the girls did not get out of the Nissan after it went into the water,” Kemp said. “If it’s the Crown theory that they all were drowned elsewhere, you don’t know where. You don’t know how, you don’t know when that happened.

    “You don’t know who may have been involved in that and you don’t have any explanation for the fact that there was simply no time for a murder as opposed to an accident.”

    Kemp reminded them that Shafia is presumed innocent.

    “With all these unknowns, it’s only speculation that can provide answers, and speculation, ladies and gentlemen, is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kemp said. “Mohammad Shafia has not had the case proven against him and should be acquitted.”

    Defence lawyer David Crowe, who represents Yahya, noted that police officers who interviewed the Shafia sisters several months before they died said the girls described Yahya as an “angel.”

    “Her reason for living, which is to raise her family, to raise her children, to care for her children, to protect her children, why would that change now?” Crowe asked, rhetorically.

    He said Yahya’s relationship with Shafia’s first wife was “complicated,” but he said there was no corroborative evidence for suggestions that Yahya isolated or abused Mohammad.

    Crowe said Yahya should be believed when she testified that she lied to a police interrogator, making the seemingly incriminating statement that the trio was at Kingston Mills the night of the deaths. Yahya testified during the trial that she fabricated a story, which she later recanted, to convince the interrogator to leave her alone and because she believed it would save her son Hamed from torture.

    Crowe said the story Yahya told the officer was clearly a lie.

    “Her description of what occurred at the scene simply makes no sense,” he told jurors.

    “There are too many unanswered questions in this investigation,” Crowe said. “My client’s explanation, coupled with the corroborative evidence . . . and certainly the lack of motive on her part, the strong, positive relationship she had with all her daughters, should clearly raise a reasonable doubt as to whether she was involved in any scheme to get rid of those daughters.”

    Defence lawyer Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed, will address jurors Wednesday, followed by prosecutor Laurie Lacelle.


  61. Shafia lawyers say unanswered questions clearly raise a reasonable doubt

    by Christie Blatchford, National Post January 24, 2012

    KINGSTON, Ont. — The drowning of three lovely Afghan girls and the woman who was like their second mother must have been an accident because the death scene was too bizarre to have been planned and deliberate murder.

    In effect, lawyers for Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Mohammad Yahya told Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger and jurors in their closing addresses, location and logistics were so unlikely they argue against murder, so the two must be acquitted.

    As for allegations this was a mass “honour killing,” nonsense, the lawyers said.

    As one of them, Peter Kemp, put it with assurance remarkable given what happens daily in the name of religion, “Honour killing is not permitted in Islam. If you combed through the Koran, you wouldn’t find honour killing.”

    Mr. Kemp represents Mr. Shafia.

    The parents, now respectively 58 and 42, are with their 21-year-old son Hamed pleading not guilty to the June 30, 2009, deaths of virtually half their family.

    Found in a black Nissan submerged at the Kingston Mills locks outside town that day were Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia — then 19, 17 and 13 — and 52-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, Mr. Shafia’s other wife, who was in Canada illegally and living in a publicly unacknowledged polygamous marriage.

    The Nissan was discovered that morning in an improbable location at the picturesque locks, wedged into a small and difficult-to-get-at spot, in shallow water, between the lock wall and a push bar used to lift the gate.

    The lawyers — Mr. Kemp and David Crowe for Ms. Yahya — peppered the jurors with the unanswered questions in the case as they delivered their closing addresses Tuesday.

    From Mr. Kemp: How would you devise a method of drowning four people, one by one, without the others fleeing? What would you tell the remaining ones? What do you say happened to the first victim? And then the second? How many people are needed to drown someone? How would the bodies be then carried, presumably wet and death-heavy, back to the black Nissan in which they were found? Why choose that convoluted route to the spot and push the Nissan when there were at the locks other, easily accessible bodies of water everywhere you looked?

    From Mr. Crowe: If it was a planned murder, why not push the Nissan into the nearby mill pond? Or the easier-to-reach turning basin for boats? And why commit a murder at a place that, while isolated, was nonetheless within 35 feet of boats parked overnight, and close to a scattering of houses, and possible witnesses?

    As Mr. Crowe told the jurors, “There are too many unanswered questions.…They clearly raise a reasonable doubt.”

    Besides, said Mr. Kemp, who prepared a time line with innovative estimates for various tasks — he figured on five minutes per to get the bodies back up to the Nissan, for instance, which begs a question of its own — “There is simply no time to commit a murder. If he [Mr. Shafia] wanted to kill them, he would take them to Sweden [where a relative testified at trial that Mr. Shafia had suggested he’d like to try drowning Zainab] or Dubai or Afghanistan where you could easily get away with a murder.”

    The lawyers were trying to defeat the prosecution theory that the three girls and Ms. Amir were likely pre-drowned, somewhere at the locks, before being placed into the Nissan and the car pushed into the water by the family Lexus.

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    The prosecutors’ suggestion has been that the women may have sat in the Nissan, either sleepy or asleep after a long drive from Niagara Falls where the family had been on a brief holiday, waiting for death to tap them on the shoulder.

    But, Mr. Kemp and Mr. Crowe countered, the sprawling clan from Kabul was an affluent, sophisticated family — even “cosmopolitan,” Mr. Crowe said — who had fled Afghanistan in 1992 and lived abroad in Pakistan, Dubai and Australia for 15 years before immigrating to Canada and settling in Montreal.

    The inference was clear: If these smart, rich, well-travelled folks were going to halve their numbers, they would have made a better job of it.

    The lawyers’ collective portrayal of the Shafias as liberal-minded parents one of whom who “lived for his family” (Mr Shafia), the other whose “life was devoted to protecting and raising her children” (Ms. Yahya), stood in stark contrast to a plethora of evidence the jurors have heard about how the three girls and Ms. Amir lived.

    A dozen independent witnesses, including Montreal Police, social workers, teachers and school officials, have testified the girls feared their father and even some of their siblings, who they believed were spying on them, and were depressed and desperate to get out from under the family yoke.

    But both Mr. Kemp and Mr. Crowe dismissed much of this evidence, saying that Sahar, for instance, was prone to exaggeration if not outright lying.

    The lawyers also painted evidence from various Shafia relatives, one of whom testified the girls were so controlled by their parents they lived “like political prisoners,” as unreliable and poisonous. These relatives were nursing long-simmering grudges, they said.

    Mr. Kemp even showed the jurors a half-dozen pictures, several of Ms. Amir, and said, “Look at the photographs. They show a happy and healthy 52-year-old woman … well-dressed, with nice makeup. She was a well-dressed, well-taken-care-of woman.”

    As for Ms. Yahya’s brief confessional, made to a Farsi-speaking RCMP officer after the trio’s arrest, that she, Mr. Shafia and Hamed were all at the locks the night the women died, Mr. Crowe said she was “cornered” by the “unrelenting way” the interrogation was done.

    Ms. Yahya recanted that admission the next day, and has otherwise insisted, as Mr. Shafia has done, that the deaths must have been an accident.

    As for seemingly damning wiretap evidence obtained by Kingston Police, the lawyers reminded the jurors that tone of voice and mood were poorly captured, if at all, by the simultaneous translation that is a feature of the trial, and of testimony from a cultural expert that lurid profanity is common among Afghan men.

    Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed, the only one of the trio who didn’t testify in his own defence, will make his final address Wednesday, followed by prosecutor Laurie Lacelle.


  63. Hamed is guilty of being stupid but not murder, defence says

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News January 25, 2012

    The prosecution theory that three members of a Montreal family murdered four others in an honour killing is “preposterous” and built on “weak” circumstantial evidence that “makes no sense,” jurors at the Shafia trial were told by defence lawyer Patrick McCann.

    Hamed, who did not testify at the trial, told a man hired by his father to investigate, after the trio was arrested, that he was at the canal when the car went into the water. McCann said this account by Hamed is the only one that makes sense. Hamed told the investigator that he was driving the Lexus and followed his joyriding sister to Kingston Mills some time after 2 a.m. on June 30. Hamed said he collided with the smaller car when it stopped suddenly.

    Hamed told the man that while he was picking up broken pieces of headlight, he heard a splash, ran to the edge of the canal and realized that the Nissan had gone into the water. Hamed, then 18, said he dangled a rope in the water, but he did not call 911 or tell his parents, who were at a nearby motel, what had happened. Instead, he drove to Montreal and staged a fake accident to conceal the damage to the Lexus.

    “He made a terrible, terrible decision, thinking, ‘No one knows I came here, I could be somehow responsible,’ ” McCann said, while insisting that “there is not a single piece of evidence that says what he says happened could not have happened.”

    In many conversations Hamed had with police officers after the deaths, he never revealed the crash story. McCann said there is a critical piece of cellphone evidence that undercuts the prosecution theory. He said cell data shows that Sahar’s cellphone was in a sector near the Kingston motel where the family stopped on June 30 at 1:36 a.m.

    “This, ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps one of the most important pieces of evidence in the trial, that almost disproves the Crown theory,” he said. McCann suggested the record indicates that the Nissan was not at the canal at a time when the prosecution maintains that it was there.

    Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle, who addressed jurors after McCann, described Hamed’s account as something he “cooked up” to conceal the murders, a “complete and total fabrication.” She pointed to several small bits of evidence that, taken together, she said reveal that it was not an accident. She noted the Nissan’s headlights were off when it was found underwater. The engine was off, none of the four people was seat-belted in and the front seats were reclined at a steep angle. These factors suggest no one was driving the car when it went into the water, she said.

    “They were most certainly incapacitated and most likely dead before the car went into the water,” Lacelle said. The prosecutor said jurors have heard ample evidence that Shafia adhered to a strict cultural code that required obedience from his female family members, over whom he sought to maintain control. Lacelle said that when Zainab ran away from home in April 2009 to a shelter, it was the final insult among a string of problems with the girls.

    “That’s when the plan to kill her began,” Lacelle said. She said that Sahar began secretly dating, Geeti was defiant and Rona supported the three girls and may also have sought a divorce. “Rona, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti shared a bond of love for one another and they also shared another bond, the desperate desire to escape the Shafia household,” Lacelle said.

    She reminded the jurors that the three accused were the last people to see the victims alive and they are the only people with a motive to kill them.

    read the full article at:


  64. Shafia trial evidence points to murder, Crown says

    CBC News January 25, 2012

    The physical evidence connected to the deaths of four family members found in the Rideau Canal proves that they were murdered, the prosecutor at the Shafia trial says. "This evidence alone establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that what happened to the girls was no accident. It was murder," Laurie Lacelle told the jury Wednesday as the Crown started its closing arguments.

    Lacelle went through the evidence that linked the family's Lexus to the site where the four family members died, and suggested the only explanation for why pieces of the car's headlight were found there was that it had pushed the Nissan sedan into the water. Addressing Hamed's account of the incident —that the car went in on its own while the driver was trying to turn around — she said: "Hamed has too many credibility problems at this point," for anyone to believe it was an accident.

    Earlier, the lawyer representing Hamed Shafia had said his client is guilty of being "stupid" but not of murder. Patrick McCann told the jury the account Shafia gave to a private investigator — that he followed the girls to the Kingston Mills locks, that they went in by accident and that he didn't call 911 or tell anyone because he was afraid of his father's reaction —was the truth.

    "Hamed is guilty of being stupid — morally blameworthy — but other than that, he is not responsible for the girls' deaths, nor were his parents," McCann said. "It's time to put an end to this Kafkaesque [episode] they've been going through for the past two and a half years, since the night of June 30."

    McCann also suggested that his client's sisters were manipulative, made up stories of abuse to get their way and that any testimony about their claims was unreliable. McCann explained why they could not convict his client based on what he said was largely hearsay evidence. He detailed how conversations recalled in court between the women and several witnesses was not reliable evidence. He went through each woman and described why any claims they made were either untruthful or unreliable.

    "I don’t want to be standing here and criticizing someone who is deceased," McCann said, adding that the jury is being asked to assess the evidence they couldn’t hear from the source. Referring to Zainab, McCann suggested she ran away to a shelter on April 2009 and tried to elicit sympathy from shelter workers because she wasn't being allowed to marry her boyfriend and not because she feared for her safety.

    "A picture starts to emerge that she is a bit spoiled and used to getting her way. Maybe she is a bit headstrong … you're being asked to rely on statements she made to decide this is the basis, this is the reason she was murdered," McCann said. He suggested the same case with Sahar, who told teachers she was fearful of her father and suffered abuse at home.

    "With Sahar, we know that on at least two occasions she had no difficulty making up stories to get what she wanted," McCann said. "In that regard, I think it underlines the problems with her evidence and the hearsay aspect of it." He said the girls used claims of abuse in a manipulative way. "Teenagers are always going to push to get their way," he said. "They want more freedom. They want to spend more time with friends."

    The Crown alleges the defendants killed the women because Sahar and Zainab Shafia were thought to have dishonoured the family by having boyfriends and living a modern lifestyle. The defence maintains that the deaths were an accident, which occurred after eldest daughter Zainab took the keys to the family's Nissan sedan and embarked on a joyride with her sisters and Amir.

    The defence has spent much of its time chipping away at the plausibility of the so-called honour killing motive.


  65. Shafia accused saw deceased as 'diseased limb'

    CBC News January 26, 2012

    Three Montrealers accused of drowning four Shafia family members in Kingston, Ont., viewed the deceased as the "diseased limb on the family tree" that needed to be removed, a Crown attorney told jury members on Thursday. [...] "Their solution" Lacelle said of the accused,"was to remove the diseased limb entirely and prune the tree back to the good wood."

    [...] Lacelle talked about the warnings that were allegedly given to Yahya from two family members about her husband's intention to kill Zainab. She did nothing, Lacelle said, because she already knew about the plan and was involved in it.

    She also told the jury the Nissan was specifically purchased for the murder plot and bought a day before the trip. Lacelle said that Mohammad Shafia's response that the car was purchased so Zainab would have a car to drive wasn't plausible because there were already plans for Zainab to marry another man so she would soon be out of the house.

    "The purchase of the Nissan was part of the murder plan," Lacelle told the jury. "If the plan was to stage an accident that accounted for the deaths of four people, a car would have to be sacrificed, too."

    Pieces of the family's Lexus SUV were found at the scene where the Nissan sedan plunged into the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009.

    Lacelle spent a significant amount of time on Yahya's role in the alleged murder plot. According to the Crown's theory, Yahya drove the women to the locks in the Nissan and waited there with them until Hamed and Mohammad Shafia returned from dropping the other children at a motel.

    Yahya "stayed with them. Stayed at the scene. Kept them unsuspecting," Lacelle said during her closing statement. "It is inconceivable that Tooba was at the scene — from the time they were alive waiting with her to the time the bodies were submerged in the canal — and wasn't a participant in the murder plan. If she hadn't agreed to participate in the plan or the cover up, then it couldn't have taken place," Lacelle said. "That means she played a significant role in the murders."

    Lacelle also addressed the timeline issue that defence lawyers said proved the accused did not have enough time to commit the murders. She said the accused had ample time — around an hour and 15 minutes, possibly longer — to drown the four women, put them in the car and push it into the water. The defence's argument was largely based on data from traffic cameras in Montreal, which they said showed Hamed in the family's Lexus early on the morning of June 30.

    Lacelle pointed out that the traffic camera only caught an image of a silver SUV, not a licence plate or anything that would identify it as belonging to Shafia. "The highway footage is nothing more than a red herring," Lacelle said. Don't be distracted by it."

    She said Hamed could have left Kingston as late as 3:48 a.m. and still had time to get to Montreal by 6:48 a.m., when cellphone records indicated he received a call from his father, who was at the Kingston motel. In her summation, Lacelle also reminded jury members that they don't have to know what happened or how it happened precisely to convict the three accused of first-degree murder.

    "It should come as no surprise in a quadruple murder where the only witnesses are either dead or on trial, that there may be some holes," Lacelle said, calling the evidence "overwhelming and irrefutable." "The Crown has proved all essential elements of the offence. You know this is not an accident. It was murder." [...]


  66. Shafia canal deaths case in hands of jury

    CBC News January 27, 2012

    The fate of three Montrealers accused of killing four family members is now in the hands of the jury after the trial judge finished giving his instructions on Friday.

    The jury is set to begin its deliberations on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET.

    Mohammad Shafia, 59, Tooba Yahya, 42, and Hamed Shafia, 21, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of four family members. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

    The three Shafia sisters — Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13 — and Rona Amir, Mohammad Shafia's first wife in a polygamous marriage, were found drowned in a Nissan submerged in the Kingston Mills lock in eastern Ontario in June 2009.

    In his 200-page charge to the jury, Judge Robert Maranger said jurors can deliver a verdict of second-degree murder against some or all of the three accused. The lesser charge doesn't require the same proof of planning and premeditation.

    In the case of first-degree, Maranger told jury members in Kingston, Ont., that they must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused killed the four victims and that the killings were planned and deliberate, he said.

    "A planned murder is one that is committed as result as of the scheme or plan that has been previously formulated or designed," he said.

    For each of the accused, he told the jury, the verdicts available to them are first-degree murder or second-degree murder. He reminded the jury that the accused do not have to prove their account of events. The burden of proof falls on the Crown.

    Aiding and abetting
    Maranger also instructed the jury on the aspect of aiding and abetting. In Canadian law, a defendant can be found guilty of an offence if the Crown proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person either assisted in the commission of an offence by the principal offender or encouraged a principal offender to commit an offence.

    The Crown does not have to prove both, the judge told the jury.

    "Please remember the question for you to decide is what the accused actually intended," he said. "If you are left with a reasonable doubt whether the accused had intent to aid or abet, you'd find the accused not guilty."

    Earlier, Maranger said prosecution would face a near impossible task to prove with absolute certainty every element of their case.

    Their responsibility is to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt, Maranger told the jury.

    Maranger asked them to carefully consider the evidence presented before them during the extensive four-month trial and cautioned them that their responsibility is significant. They are expected to begin deliberations today after more than four months of witnesses, arguments and evidence.

    Throughout the trial, the defence maintained the deaths were an accident — the result of a joyride with an inexperienced driver at the wheel.

    Courtroom full throughout trial
    However, the prosecution countered that the deaths were cold and deliberate murder — planned, deliberated, executed and covered up equally by each of the accused.

    The motive, the Crown asserted, was the restoration of the family's honour, tainted by the behaviour of the victims and alleged betrayals.

    The court has heard testimony from teachers, social workers, technological experts, police, medical professionals, family members and two of the accused themselves in 40 days of court proceedings.

    The trial has garnered significant attention as well, drawing media from across Ontario and Quebec and a mass of spectators who would line up early in the morning for a seat in the 150-person courtroom.

    On more than one day, people were turned away because the room was at capacity.


  67. What the Shafia jurors didn’t hear

    by Rob Tripp, Postmedia News January 27, 2012

    Jurors began deciding the fate Friday of three members of a Montreal family accused of killing four other family members, unaware that there was an eyewitness to some events at the isolated spot where the victims were found dead.

    The lone eyewitness did not testify at the trial and jurors were not told of his existence.

    His account is among dozens of pieces of information that was withheld from the jurors, in some cases because of rulings by a judge before or during the trial. The information could not be reported publicly until the jury retired to begin deliberations.

    Jurors are considering whether prosecutors proved that Afghan immigrant Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, are each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. The accused pleaded not guilty, prompting a trial that lasted more than three months and heard from 58 witnesses. Three of the 10-member Shafia family’s children were found dead in a submerged car discovered June 30, 2009, at the bottom of a shallow canal near Kingston, in eastern Ontario.

    Sisters Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, had drowned. Mohammad was Shafia’s first wife in the polygamous family, though her identity was concealed to circumvent Canadian immigration laws. Experts were not able to conclude how and where the victims drowned.

    Prosecutors contend the victims were incapacitated, either by being drowned or rendered unconscious, before they were placed inside the family’s Nissan Sentra and the car was pushed into the canal.

    The accused mother and father have maintained that their eldest daughter took the car without permission from the motel where the family had stopped overnight. They suggested she went for a joyride and crashed the vehicle into the water.

    Prosecutors allege the family’s other vehicle, a Lexus SUV, was used to push the Sentra over a stone lip and into the water. The Lexus was not at the canal that morning, according to the statements and testimony of Shafia and Yahya.

    An eight-year-old boy testified, at a hearing held in February 2010, that he saw two vehicles at the canal at 1:40 a.m. on June 30. The boy, who lives in a house on a spit of land 200 metres from the canal, was awake, getting a drink of water when he heard what he described as a “splash, kind of a crash.” The boy went to his rear deck, which affords a clear view of the canal. He saw two vehicles, one larger vehicle with its headlights on, illuminating another, smaller vehicle, with its headlights off.

    The smaller vehicle was on the grass “near the water,” the boy testified at the preliminary hearing, a proceeding that was conducted to determine if there was enough evidence to put the accused on trial. The larger vehicle appeared to be on the road.

    The boy said he also heard another sound, like a car horn, “like just ‘beep’ and then gone.” He heard it a few minutes after the “splash-crash.” He did not see or hear any people. The boy said he watched for a few minutes, then went back inside his house and went back to bed at 2 a.m. Police interviewed him later that morning.

    The boy’s story appears to contradict the account of Hamed, who told a man in a jailhouse conversation, that he followed his joyriding sister to the canal in the family’s Lexus and rear-ended the Nissan before his sister accidentally drove into the water. But in Hamed’s account, the two vehicles did not go to the canal until after 2 a.m., the time at which the family checked into a motel.

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    Jurors also did not hear about an incident in which Shafia waved a knife at his wife, Yahya, and threatened to stab her, according to one witness. Fazil Javid, Yahya’s brother, described the incident when he testified at the preliminary hearing on Feb. 23, 2010. Javid said it happened at the Shafia home in Montreal a week after the deaths, when many relatives had gathered to offer their sympathy to the grieving family.

    “He had threatened . . . my sister,” said Javid, who lives in Sweden. Javid said he was leaving the Shafia house, walking to a car, when he heard a commotion behind him. He turned to see that his sister, Yahya, was crying, coming after him, asking him not to leave and making some sort of gesture with her hand across her throat, suggesting that she was fed up. Shafia was following her with a large kitchen knife that he estimated had a six-inch blade. Javid said another one of his brothers who was there was restraining Shafia.

    “Hamed was trying to take his mother back inside and he was telling his father that don’t make too much noise,” Javid testified. Javid testified during the trial, telling jurors that Shafia asked him for help with a plan to murder Zainab, but he was not asked about the knife incident. Lawyers had discussed the incident before the trial and noted that it was highly prejudicial to Shafia.

    Jurors also did not hear about a purported scheme to send Rona Mohammad back to Afghanistan from Canada. Montreal lawyer Sabine Venturelli, who handled the Shafia family’s immigration matters, testified at the trial but she was not permitted to recount a telephone conversation with Zarmina Fazel, an aunt of Yahya’s who lives in Montreal. Fazel helped the Shafia family and sponsored Mohammad to come to Canada on a visitor visa. Venturelli testified at the preliminary hearing in February 2009 that Mohammad was seeking permanent residency and her application was progressing well, when the lawyer received a phone call from Fazel in April or May 2009. Fazel, who spoke French and often translated for Shafia, was speaking on his behalf.

    “(She was) telling me that Mrs. Rona was causing problems to the Shafia family and that Mr. Shafia was asking me to close the file of Mrs. Rona and to have her sent back to Afghanistan,” Venturelli testified at the preliminary hearing.


    While jurors heard considerable evidence that revolved around a lengthy police interrogation of Yahya, they did not know that Yahya fought to keep the interrogation out of their hands. During a hearing held in February 2010, David Crowe, Yahya’s lawyer, argued that Yahya did not understand the process during the interrogation and she was offered improper inducements in exchange for her answers. Judge Stephen Hunter concluded that while the interrogator had a strategic plan, so, too, did Yahya.

    “The entirety of the evidence suggests that her consistent search for what proof the police had continued throughout,” Hunter said, in ruling that her statements were made voluntarily and were admissible. The key decision permitted prosecutors to put the entire 7-1/2-hour videotape in front of the jurors. During the recording, Yahya is seen telling the police officer that the three accused were at the canal when the Nissan Sentra plunged into the water. When Yahya testified during the trial, she said she was not at the canal. She said she had lied to the interrogator about being at the scene because she wanted him to leave her alone and she believed it would prevent her son Hamed from being tortured.


  69. Shafia's relatives endorse honour-killings: Report


    One of Tooba Mohammad Yahya's sisters and her husband fully endorse the notion of honour-killing.

    The startling revelation is contained in a Saturday story in Montreal’s La Presse, written by columnist Michele Ouimet, who interviewed the couple in Kabul two months ago.

    As news of the story rocketed about the near-empty Kingston courthouse where jurors in the notorious Shafia murder trial are deliberating, the jurors were completing their first full day of work.

    They retired late Friday, and have now spent more than 11 hours in their jury room. They are sequestered, always accompanied by two court constables, kept away from radio, TV, newspaper and web reports of any kind and stay overnight as a group at a local hotel.

    Ouimet’s front-page story was headlined: “Perdre filles, et avoir peche trois fois”, a quote from Yahya herself.

    It translates in English as, “to lose three daughters and have sinned three times.”

    The reporter had facilitated a call between the two long-lost sisters, and when Soraya said she hoped she’d soon be out of jail, Yahya told her, “Yes my sister, there are problems. To lose three daughters and have sinned three times.”

    Asked directly if she would kill for honour, Soraya replied yes, and said if the deed was sufficiently odious, the punishment is elimination.

    Her husband Habibullah, who was sitting in a corner and not participating in the women’s discussion, at the mention of honour piped up. If his daughters — the couple has seven, and two boys — dishonoured his family, he wouldn’t hesitate, he told Ouimet.

    “I would put them in a bag and eliminate them so no one would ever find their traces in Afghanistan,” he said.

    Ouimet noted that some of the daughters were present, and quiet, when their father said that.

    The scenario fits in squarely with what the prosecution’s so-called cultural expert, Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, testified to at trial.

    “There’s no serious debate about the phenomenon (of honour-killing), but on its forms, how to name it and how to deal with it,” she told the jurors.

    And overt threatening by fathers or other male relatives is common in such patriarchal cultures is part of how women’s compliance with the cultural rules is monitored, she said.

    Both the 42-year-old Yahya and her 58-year-old husband Mohammad Shafia, who testified at trial, flatly denied ever hearing of honour killing before, as Yahya said with righteous indignation, “they put this name on our case.”

    Two of Shafia’s siblings also testified, and both said they too had never heard of honour crimes.

    Yahya’s remark to her sister would sound like an admission only to someone who didn’t see her in the witness stand, where for six days she came up with one imaginative explanation after another for incriminating things she either told police or said in wiretapped conversations with her husband.

    The parents and their 21-year-old son Hamed are pleading not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder.

    Found in a submerged black Nissan on June 30, 2009, at the bottom of the Kingston Mills locks were Shafia daughters Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, then respectively 19, 17 and 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, Shafia’s secret other wife.

    Rona Mohammad, who was 52, was brought to Canada months after the rest of the family arrived in June of 2007, and came into the country as a domestic servant on a visitor’s visa.

    As she seemed to have been an inconsequential presence in the Shafia house, so was she not mentioned by Yahya in the La Presse story.

    Prosecutors allege the deaths were a mass honour killing disguised as a car accident; defence lawyers say it was simply a tragic accident.


  70. Shafia jury finds all guilty

    CBC News January 29, 2012

    A Montreal couple and their son were all convicted Sunday of first-degree murder in the deaths of four family members. Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed had pleaded not guilty.

    They were accused of killing Hamed's three sisters and their father's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

    The bodies of Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Mohammad Amir, 50, were found dead in the family’s Nissan, submerged in the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009.

    The four were "murdered by their family in the most troubling of circumstances," Chief Prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis said outside the court house, saying the women died needlessly.

    "This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and core principals in a free, democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy," Laarhuis said.

    The verdict came after about 15 hours of deliberations, less than 48 hours after they were first charged by the judge in the case, Justice Robert Maranger.

    They were each handed an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

    Maranger said it is difficult to imagine a more "heinous crime" than two parents convicted of killing three of their own daughters for "an apparent notion of honour that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."

    "The apparent reason behind these cold shameful murders was that four (victims) offended your twisted notion of honour," the judge said.

    Each of the Shafia family members addressed the court, denying their involvement. Hamed said in English, "I did not drown my sisters anywhere, while Yahya said "I am not a murderer." Her husband echoed that, with "I did not commit any murder."

    One of the female jurors started crying after the verdict was read, wiping her eyes. Hamed grabbed a hold of the prisoners' box for support, his parents rubbing his back as each juror affirmed that guilt was their verdict.

    To return that verdict of first-degree murder, the jury had to be satisfied with six elements beyond a reasonable doubt including, that the accused caused the death of the victims, the accused caused the deaths unlawfully, the accused had the state of mind required for to commit murder and that the murders were planned and deliberate.

    During the nearly three-month-long trial, the Crown maintained the family road trip was part of a plot to kill the four because they had tainted the family’s honour. The Crown alleged the family's patriarch was upset that his two eldest daughters wanted boyfriends, betraying his traditional Afghan values.

    The Shafias moved to Canada in 2007. They fled their native Afghanistan more than 15 years earlier and had lived in Dubai and Australia before moving the family to Montreal and applied for citizenship.

    At the time of the deaths, they were all permanent residents, except for Amir Amir who had only a visitors’ visa.


  71. Youth protection registry came too late for Shafia girls

    CBC News January 30, 2012

    The agency that first got wind of trouble in the Montreal home of the murdered Shafia sisters admits lack of communication between English and French agencies may have contributed to the failure of youth protection workers to act when the children sought help for a second time — just two months before the girls' deaths.

    Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, Montreal's English-language child protection agency, was the first to be alerted to trouble in the Shafia home in 2008, when the second oldest daughter, Sahar, complained to teachers at school.

    At the sensational first-degree murder trial of her parents, Mohammed Shafia, 58, and Tooba Yahya, 42, and brother Hamed, 21, the jury would hear that Sahar told authorities she wanted to kill herself and that Hamed had stabbed her in the arm with scissors.

    "Immediately after we got called in, we went to the school," said Madeleine Bérard, Batshaw's director of youth protection. "We interviewed the child alone. We interviewed her parents, her brother, her sister. We interviewed teachers who were also involved in the case."

    But Sahar recanted her story immediately, Bérard said. That left the agency with little legal alternative but to close the file.

    During the murder trial held in Kingston, Ont., the jury heard that in April 2009, the children sought help a second time — calling 911 because they feared what their father would do when he learned that the eldest sister, Zainab, had fled the Shafia family home and sought refuge at a women's shelter.

    On that occasion, the file was handled by Centre Jeunesse de Montreal, the French-language youth protection agency that oversees the majority of cases in Montreal.

    The agency was unaware that trouble in the Shafia household had been flagged a year earlier to Batshaw, because there was no system in place to allow agencies to share information such as prior alerts involving the same family.

    A Quebec-wide registry to share complaints among all youth protection agencies was in the works, but it did not get up and running until May 2009 — one month after the second complaint and just weeks before the three Shafia sisters and their stepmother, Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, were found dead inside a car submerged in the Kingston Mills lock in eastern Ontario.

    Had the provincial registry been in place in April 2008, "it might have helped," Bérard said, noting it would have let the second agency know to handle the file as a repeat issue — raising additional alarm bells for investigators.

    "When you start to observe a pattern, then it makes you question. It makes you want to look a little further," Bédard said. "It gives you enough justification to dig further."

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  72. continued from previous comment:

    Relatives are now caring for three Shafia children, but CBC News has learned the siblings are struggling.

    At least one of them is unwilling to believe his parents murdered his sisters and stepmother, and all of them appear to have been traumatized.

    "All three of them have problems," said Khalid Ahmed, who is related to Yahya. "Especially the oldest girl. She has health problems, too."

    The youngest girl was just nine years old when her sisters were murdered.

    "She said she had nightmares, hallucinations," said Dr. Nora Dembri, in a psychological evaluation filed in court documents. "She saw her sisters and ... she heard whispering voices that she thought were her sisters."

    Dembri described the girl as anguished and her older sister as tormented and confused, anxious to have contact with her parents whom she still considered "her only reliable source."

    "To her, it doesn't make sense why people consider her parents to be monsters," Dembri testified in preliminary proceedings to the trial. "To her, they always tried to make sure the children were happy and that they had a ... a prosperous future."

    The youngest Shafia brother is "absolutely sure that his family are innocent," Dembri said, adding the boy deeply regrets making a phone call to authorities, "because he thought that he's partly responsible for what was actually happening to the family, and especially to his parents."

    "My concern is that, according to his sense of guilt and despair, he will really sink in a deep depression," Dembri warned, "a kind of melancholia, with the risk of ... suicide."

    Questions also remain about the financial welfare of the surviving children.

    Ahmed had managed Mohammed Shafia's business affairs, including the operation of a strip mall north of Montreal, which the businessman who was born in Afghanistan bought for about $1.6 million.

    "He would often call me, only to ask about his money," Ahmed told CBC News. "Not once did he ask about the health of his kids."

    Ahmed said just this week Shafia transferred control of some of his assets to his younger son, now 18 and a high-school dropout.


  73. Hamed Shafia files appeal in honour killing verdict


    The trial that ended with Hamed Shafia behind bars for the murder of four members of his family was afflicted by media bias and hearsay evidence, says his lawyer — who confirmed Tuesday he is appealing his client's first-degree murder convictions.

    Lawyer Patrick McCann said Tuesday that the appeal is based upon inadmissible hearsay evidence of key witnesses, including the sisters' boyfriends and teachers who recalled statements made to them by the sisters, as well as testimony from social workers, police, shelter workers, friends and others. McCann said this hearsay evidence should not have been heard by the jury.

    "The ground relating to hearsay is based on evidentiary law, which prohibits the use of hearsay unless it is established that the words spoken would not likely be changed or modified by any cross-examination so that there are adequate substitutes for the absence of an oath and any cross-examination and the inability of the jury to observe the witness when testifying," he told Postmedia News in an email.

    McCann also questioned the testimony of a University of Toronto "honour crimes" expert. In court, the defence criticized the testimony of Prof. Shahrzad Mojab, saying Mojab did not do any fieldwork in Afghanistan and that her observations were biased.

    According to McCann, another aspect of the appeal is the potential negative impact of biased media coverage of the case.

    "As you know, the media coverage was extremely intense . . . whereas much of it was quite objective, much of it assumed guilt from the beginning of the trial," he explained.

    "Although jurors are told not to read or listen to media accounts, in a case like this, it is almost inevitable that they would be aware of the coverage and may well be tainted by it," McCann said. "I don't know that this could be a ground of appeal, but it certainly may impact on the viability of jury trials unless the jury is sequestered."

    The appeal was filed Monday at the Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ont. It will be forwarded to the Court of Appeal in Toronto and then replaced by a lawyer's notice of appeal once retainer issues are worked out, McCann said. It could take up to a year before the appeal is heard in court.

    On other potential appeals, a representative from the law office of David Crowe, who defended Tooba Mohammad Yahya, said an appeal will be filed at a future date. Mohammad Shafia's lawyer, Peter Kent, declined to comment.

    Meanwhile, the Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa issued a statement on Tuesday about the Shafia verdicts.

    "The Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa condemns the horrific death of four innocent women in Kingston, Ontario, with the strongest terms possible. The killing of Rona Amir Mohammed, Zainab Shafia, Sahar Shafia and Geeti Shafia, which occurred in summer 2009, were a heinous crime against humanity," the statement said.

    "This kind of crime is neither part of Afghan culture nor Islamic culture, and it is not acceptable in any ways. There is nothing honourable about violence against anyone, especially against innocent women. Honour killing is unacceptable in (the) Afghanistan constitution and its justice system."



  74. Shafia relatives threatened, shunned for testifying against family

    by Graeme Hamilton, National Post January 31, 2012

    MONTREAL — The Shafia honour killing trial heard from plenty of Afghan witnesses prepared to vouch for the parents and son accused of murdering four female members of their family.

    Mohammad Shafia’s half-brother said Shafia was being framed because of his wealth. A brother of Tooba Mohammad Yahya, Shafia’s second wife, swore his brother-in-law was an upstanding businessman, as did another Shafia associate. The Shafias’ 18-year-old son, brother to three murdered sisters, described the family home as “happy, joyful.”

    In the end, the jury dismissed their testimony and found Shafia, Yahya and their 21-year-old son Hamed guilty of first-degree murder in a Kingston, Ont., courtroom on Sunday.

    The verdict, in part, can be attributed to the testimony of three members of the extended Shafia clan who felt obliged to tell the truth about what was going on in the family’s Montreal home. For their efforts, they have been shunned by family and subjected to threats.

    Latif Hyderi, an uncle of Yahya who lives in Montreal, offered shocking testimony about a conversation he had with Shafia about his 19-year-old daughter. Zainab, desperate to escape her oppressive home, had married her boyfriend, then promptly had the union annulled. Shafia told Mr. Hyderi she was a whore. “She is dirty. She is a curse to me,” Mr. Hyderi recalled Shafia telling him. Shafia, who was away on business, told him: “If I was there, I would have killed her.”

    Mr. Hyderi’s son, Reza, 31, said in an interview that his family was threatened after deciding to go to the police with suspicions that the deaths of Zainab, Sahar, 17, and 13-year-old Geeti Shafia and Shafia’s other wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, were no accident.

    “We used to receive calls from people, threatening over the phone,” he said. One cousin warned him not to “create problems for yourself and for others.”

    Since ignoring the threats, his family “has been completely abandoned by the Afghan community,” he said, calling the response disturbing.

    “Honestly I don’t care about myself. I don’t care if they don’t talk to me or if I’m not in their society,” Mr. Hyderi said.

    “But my parents, they’re very, very good people, and this is their world. They cannot communicate either in English or in French. They’ve grown up in Afghan society. It’s everything to them. And suddenly you snatch everything from them.… It’s a punishment for the fact that my Dad went to testify against Mr. Shafia.”

    Fazil Javad, a brother of Yahya, travelled from Sweden to testify about another conversation with Shafia. He said Shafia had talked about planning a family trip to Sweden to kill Zainab. “He told me that we will put her in water and drown her,” Mr. Javad testified. He said Shafia cursed his daughter and complained that she was dating a young Pakistani man.

    Mr. Hyderi said Mr. Javad, his cousin, has also been ostracized by the family for speaking out. Reached in Sweden, Mr. Javad, who speaks limited English, said, he was tired of talking about Shafia. “They are crazy people,” he said. “How can a father kill his children? I don’t understand.” Since the deaths, he added, “I am always thinking about it.… I cannot sleep.”

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  75. continued from previous comment:

    The third family member to testify for the Crown was Diba Masoomi, a sister of Ms. Mohammad living in France. She had written to police soon after the deaths to alert them something was fishy. To begin with, she could not understand why Ms. Mohammad had been referred to as a cousin when she was the first wife in Shafia’s polygamous marriage. But worse, she reported that Ms. Mohammad and Zainab had received death threats.

    Murder charges were filed two weeks later, in July 2009. That fall, Ms. Masoomi began receiving mysterious calls from Dubai, where the Shafias had lived before moving to Canada in 2007 and where Shafia still travelled frequently for business.

    Wali Abdali, Ms. Masoomi’s brother, said his sister was frightened by the calls. “Three times they called after my sister had filed a complaint against Shafia about the deaths. They called her telling her to withdraw her complaint,” Mr. Abdali said. “They said they are not murderers, they never killed anyone, you have to withdraw your complaint.”

    She persisted, travelling to Kingston, Ont., to testify at the preliminary inquiry and at the trial. In November she testified that before her death, her sister had told her about overhearing Shafia plotting to kill Zainab. “I will kill her because she dishonoured me,” she quoted Shafia as saying.

    Mr. Abdali said they never learned who made the calls, and they did not report them to police because they eventually stopped. But he said he remained nervous. “Every time she had to travel, I would accompany her,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose a second sister.”


  76. Canadian imam to issue fatwa against honour killings


    CALGARY — A Calgary imam will take the bold step of issuing a fatwa — an official religious edict pronounced by a scholar of the Muslim faith — against honour killings and domestic abuse on Saturday.

    Imam Syed Soharwardy, who is head imam at the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre as well as the founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, will deliver the fatwa at a mosque in Mississauga, Ont. He will be backed by more than 30 imams and Muslim scholars from across North America who want to send a strong message to other members of their faith.

    "Within the Muslim community, there are a few clergy people — it's a very small number, no doubt about it — who misinterpret the Qur'an and say it is OK to beat a wife," Soharwardy said. "That kind of mentality has to be changed, and has to be confronted."

    Soharwardy said that while he has been doing research into the issue of misogyny in Islam for a long time, it was the recent high-profile Shafia murder trial that prompted him to take action.

    Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and the couple's eldest son, Hamed, were found guilty of first-degree murder earlier this week in Kingston, Ont. The prosecution's case was built around the premise that the Shafias murdered four of their relatives because they had stained the family's "honour."

    "Those people who justify these crimes in the name of Islam, they are dead wrong," Soharwardy said. "There is no place for these crimes in our faith."

    Soharwardy said the fatwa will contain evidence of verses in the Qur'an where mistakes in translation from the original Arabic may have led some people to believe that Islam accepts violence against women.

    "In some cases, we are coming back with a translation that conflicts with the rest of our understanding of the Qur'an," Soharwardy said. "I don't think it's acceptable . . . The Prophet Mohammed never did these kinds of things, he never said you can hit your wife."

    By issuing the fatwa, Soharwardy said he and other scholars also hope to make non-Muslims understand that anti-female sentiment has no place in the true teachings of Islam.

    This is not the first time Soharwardy has taken a stance on a current event by issuing a formal edict. In 2010, the Calgary imam and other imams associated with the Islamic Supreme Council issued a fatwa condemning terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists.

    While not legally binding, fatwas carry substantial weight within Islam, particularly with followers of the Shia branch of the faith.


  77. Shafia father to appeal murder convictions

    Mohammed Shafia joins son Hamed in appeal process

    CBC News February 3, 2012

    A man convicted of killing his three daughters and first wife has filed his intention to appeal.

    It's Mohammed Shafia's first step in the process toward filing a full appeal at a later date.

    Shafia, 58, joins his son Hamed, 21, who earlier this week filed an inmate notice of appeal. The son, father and second wife Tooba Yahya were convicted Jan. 29 of four counts each of first-degree murder in the deaths of Shafia's daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and his first wife in a polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52.

    The bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a lock in Kingston, Ont.

    The judge described the killings as being motivated by the Shafias' "twisted concept of honour."

    The notices of appeal from both men raise the same three grounds:

    Judge Robert Maranger "erred in admitting the evidence of Dr. [Shahrzad] Mojab as an expert with respect to honour killings."
    Maranger erred in admitting hearsay evidence "of the four deceased women." The trial heard from numerous police, child protection and school officials who testified the girls told them about family tensions and their fears. Relatives of Rona testified she had told them she overheard Shafia talking about plans to kill Zainab and "the other one," and she feared that was her.
    Maranger erred in his charge to the jury by characterizing the original story all three told police as "post-offence conduct." Shafia, Yahya and Hamed told police that Zainab took the car keys and must have taken the other three for a joy ride in which they accidentally plunged into the canal. The Crown alleged it was a story the three had concocted to deflect suspicion from them.
    Shafia is not fluent in English and it's not clear whether the handwriting on his notice of appeal is his, or whether he had help in filling out the forms. The documents filed by both father and son indicate they have not yet been moved to a federal prison following their convictions from Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ont.

    Yahya has not yet filed an inmate notice of appeal, but she had 30 days from the date of conviction to do so. On the day the verdicts were delivered, Hamed's lawyer, Patrick McCann, indicated he believed all three would appeal.

    With files from the Canadian Press


  78. Shafia mother files intent to appeal murder convictions

    The Canadian Press February 8, 2012

    The mother of the Shafia family has joined her husband and son in filing her intention to appeal her convictions on four counts of first-degree murder.

    Tooba Yahya, 42, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son Hamed, 21, have now each filed an inmate notice of appeal, which is the first step toward filing a full appeal at a later date.

    The three were convicted Jan. 29 of killing daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and the first wife in the polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52.

    The bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a canal in Kingston, Ont.

    The judge described the killings as being motivated by the Shafias' "twisted concept of honour."

    All three notices of appeal raise the same three grounds on which they're seeking to appeal, including a claim the judge shouldn't have admitted evidence from an expert on so-called honour killings.


  79. Shafia daughter's boyfriend wishes he stood up to family

    CBC News February 10, 2012

    The former boyfriend of the eldest Shafia daughter, Zainab, says he still struggles with whether he could have done more to rescue her from her controlling and abusive family who eventually killed her. Ammar Wahid, in an exclusive interview with CBC's The Fifth Estate, says it's a thought that is still hard to live with, more than two years after she was killed at the hands of her father, mother, and brother.

    "I feel like if I was able to take a step to take her out of the house, I should’ve went further. I should’ve, should’ve stood up more. And I feel like I should’ve stood up directly to her father and brother, which I didn’t do," he said. Wahid said he doesn't know how they would have reacted, but wondered if maybe they would have listened, or reacted differently.

    "I wasn’t worried about the outcome, how they would’ve reacted with me, but she would’ve been alive," Wahid said. "There’s a lot of possibilities."


    Wahid later learned how strict Zainab's family was in an email, in which she warned Wahid to "act like [a] complete stranger" when Hamed was around. "The more I got to know her, she told me she would get hit or she would get beaten up … she even said, certain times, that she would, her father would kill her," Wahid said. "He's that type of man."

    Wahid said, at the time, he didn't believe her father was capable of murder. "I'm like, 'you, you, that's just in your head. You can't think like that. I'm like, he will never kill you. She's like, 'you don't know'. She kept on repeating, 'you don't know my father'."

    They dated discreetly, but one day when Mohammad Shafia was on a business trip to Dubai, Wahid visited Zainab at home. The couple were caught by Hamed, and as punishment, Zainab was pulled out of school for a year. Zainab eventually ran away to a women's shelter, with her boyfriend's help. Her parents called the police to bring her home, but at 19, Zainab was an adult and did not have to comply. Yahya convinced her to come home by promising that she could marry Wahid.

    He remembers their wedding day as the happiest day of his life. Zainab was happy too, he said. But Wahid's family members didn't attend the wedding, a sharp rebuke to a family obsessed with honour. On the day of the reception, there was terse talk between Zainab, her mother and her brother, Wahid said.

    "I don't know what happened during that 15-20 minutes. She came up to me and told me I can't do this … She was crying, she told me 'I love you, but I cannot do this. I cannot come and I cannot leave my family'."

    Less than 24 hours after the wedding, the marriage was annulled. After a few weeks passed, Zainab contacted Wahid and told him her father had "completely changed", and the family were planning a trip to Niagara Falls. Three weeks later, Zainab was dead.

    Wahid said, even now, he still thinks of her as his wife. In one of her last emails, she wrote "We had an amazing love story together." The last time she wrote to him, she signed off as "best friends for life … this is one promise no one can make me break."


  80. Man who testified in Shafia trial shunned by family


    KINGSTON, ONT. - A man who helped convict his niece of killing three of her daughters and her husband’s first wife says he has been ostracized from his family and friends.

    “At the beginning, not just in Afghan society, some of the Canadians abandoned me,” said Latif Hyderi, a 65-year-old Montreal man. “We would go to the mosque and no one would talk to me.”

    Hyderi appeared at the Kingston Mills murder trial in November to testify that Mohammad Shafia, Shafia’s wife and Hyderi’s niece Tooba Yahya and their son, Hamed.

    They were each found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, for killing daughters Zainab, Sahar, Geeti, and Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad. The bodies of the four women were found in a car submerged at the Rideau Canal locks in Kingston on June 30, 2009. The Crown was told the women were part of an honour killing because of their acceptance of Western ideals and trends.

    Hyderi, who speaks neither English nor French and spoke with QMI Agency through his son, Reza, said the women’s deaths were made more tragic because Zainab was engaged to marry his son, Hussain.

    Hyderi had to choose between justice and family the day he learned his future daughter-in-law was found dead in the Rideau Canal.

    He testified against Shafia, even though his family and other members of the Afghan society in Montreal urged him not to.

    “When the killings happened my father knew it was not an accident because Mr. Shafia told my dad he was going to kill Zainab. For my parents it’s everything. He’s very disappointed in the reaction to his testimony, though he knew it was reality,” Reza said.

    At the trial, Hyderi said he tried to convince Mohammad to ease up on the restrictions, that they were living in a whole different culture in Canada.

    “If Shafia would listen to me those four women would be alive on this earth,” he told the court. “I feel very bad for what they introduced to the community. For me, the children were always clean.”

    Hussain, now 29, is refusing interviews. Reza said his brother was devastated by what transpired and is trying to put his life back together.

    “It’s hard for me to see Tooba, my niece, in prison. It’s very shameful,” Hyderi said. “I swear I was a friend to the Shafias and I never thought they would face such a time.

    “No matter what they think — even if they consider me an enemy — I tell the truth and nothing else.

    “My duty was to oppose the crime and stand up for reality. In that, I have God with me and I felt it was right.”

    Shafia, Yahya and Hamed are appealing their convictions.


  81. Hamed Shafia should have been tried as youth for honour killing, appeal court hears

    Shafia and parents were convicted of murdering 4 female family members in 2009 and are serving life sentences

    By Ron Charles, CBC News March 03, 2016

    Lawyers for a man convicted along with his parents of the so-called honour killings of four female family members are alleging that he was only 17 at the time of his arrest and should have been tried as a youth.

    Hamed Shafia's legal team made the argument in the Court of Appeal for Ontario Thursday. They said newly discovered government documents show their client, who immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan with his family in 2007, was actually a year younger than originally believed at the time of his arrest in 2009.

    That would have made him 17 and subject to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, meaning, for example, that there would have had to have been a hearing to determine whether or not he should be tried as an adult.

    "Onus is on the Crown to prove age beyond a reasonable doubt," said Shafia's lawyer, Scott Hutchison.

    If Shafia had been charged as a youth, it "would have caused a significantly different trial for this accused and a different outcome for this accused," Hutchison said.

    Shafia and his parents, Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yahya, were convicted of first degree murder in 2012 for the deaths of the couple's three teenage daughters and Mohammad Shafia's first wife in his polygamous marriage.

    They are all serving life sentences with no eligibility of parole for 25 years, but had Hamed Shafia been tried as a young offender and given an adult sentence of life, he would be eligible for parole after 10 years.

    Dates of birth not so important in Afghan society, lawyer says

    Hutchison told the court that in many Middle Eastern cultures, dates of birth don't hold the same significance that they do in Western society.

    He said there is a "casualness assigned to dates of birth in Afghan and other Middle Eastern societies."

    Hutchison said the new evidence includes three documents from Afghanistan: a certificate of live birth, a census document and a government identity document. He said the age discrepancy came to light when Shafia's father wanted to transfer property in Afghanistan and asked someone in the country to prepare the required paperwork.

    Hutchison said Afghan officials in Kabul and at the country's embassy in Ottawa confirmed in writing that the documents are authentic and unaltered.

    Crown lawyers, however, argued that the documents are entirely unreliable and even if the court accepted them, it wouldn't change the outcome of the earlier trial.

    "You can admit this evidence, and it doesn't undermine the factual underpinning of the verdict one iota," Crown counsel Gillian Roberts said.

    Earlier in the proceedings, Hutchison acknowledged that every document is open to challenge about its accuracy.

    He asked that if the court won't order a new trial, it should grant Shafia a new sentencing hearing under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act or reduce his sentence.

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  82. Bodies found in submerged car in Rideau Canal

    The Shafia daughters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 58, were found in one of the Shafia family's cars at the bottom of the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ont., on June 30, 2009.

    The family was living in Montreal at the time.

    Lawyers for all three appellants also argued on Thursday that an expert Crown witness who testified at the original trial on the subject of so-called honour killings unfairly prejudiced the jury.

    They targeted the testimony of Shahzrad Mojab, a University of Toronto adult education professor connected with the school's Women and Gender Studies Institute.

    Her testimony described what she called a cultural practice in parts of the Middle East and South Asia of killing women and girls whose conduct is seen to "dishonour" their families.

    Yaha's lawyer, Frank Addario, acknowledged in court Thursday that Mojab is an expert on the treatment of women in
    Middle Eastern cultures and her testimony about that was relevant at the original trial.

    But, he said, her suggestion that honour killings are planned by fathers and oldest sons often with the help of mothers should not have been put to the jury.

    He said it's highly prejudicial and "flat out prohibited" in criminal trials for an expert witness to suggest certain crimes are carried out by specific types of people in particular ways.

    "She shouldn't have been permitted to tell them (the jury) how honour killings are carried out," Addario said.

    Crown argued 'twisted concept of honour' drove murders

    In its written response to the appeal submitted before the proceedings, the Crown said Mojab's testimony was necessary for the jury to understand the phenomenon of honour killings, which, it argued, was the motive for the murders.

    The Crown had argued at trial that the parents and Hamed Shafia felt the three sisters "shamed" the family by dating and acting out and that their killings were motivated by the defendants' "twisted concept of honour."

    But Addario said in court Thursday that Modjab's testimony contained stereotypical reasoning about Afghani Muslims.

    "A Canadian jury is perfectly capable of understanding that men of all ethnicities will sometimes hurt female family members for misguided reasons of honour, without the assistance of expert evidence," he said.

    Criminal defence lawyer John Rosen, who is not connected to the Shafia case and wouldn't comment on it directly, says appealing the admissibility of an expert witnesses is a well-travelled route to a new trial.

    He says one of the considerations the appeal court judges will consider is whether the relevance of the expert testimony justifies possibly maligning the accused.

    "That's where you get to the issue of, well is this merely a character assassination or is this evidence relevant to something other than the character or propensity of the accused."

    The family's lawyers also argued that the trial judge did not properly assess the admissibility of certain hearsay statements made by the four victims before their death and didn't instruct the jury properly on them.

    They further argued the trial judge erred by not providing sufficient direction to the jury on the Crown's theory that Yahya could be found guilty of murder on the basis that her alleged failure to protect her children from her husband made her causally responsible for their deaths.

    The appeal continues Friday.


  83. Expert's 'honour killing' testimony wasn't cultural profiling, Crown says

    Appeal hearing for Shafia family wraps up in Toronto, judges reserve decision

    By Ron Charles, CBC News March 04, 2016

    Expert testimony on the practice of so-called honour killing did not prejudice the jury against three members of the Shafia family convicted in 2012 of murdering four female relatives, the Crown argued in an Ontario appeal court Friday.

    The Court of Appeal for Ontario heard arguments for two days this week in an appeal challenging the first-degree murder convictions of Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed Shafia.

    The three were convicted of first degree murder in the 2009 deaths of Shafia and Yaha's three daughters and Shafia's other wife in a polygamous marriage. They are serving life sentences without chance of parole for 25 years.

    The appeal hearings wrapped up Friday afternoon, with the three judges reserving their decision until a later, unspecified date.

    The family's lawyers argued Thursday that the trial judge should not have allowed the testimony of University of Toronto professor Shahrzad Mojab. Mojab's suggestion that honour killings are planned by fathers and oldest sons often with the help of mothers was prejudicial and "flat-out prohibited," lawyer Frank Addario told the Toronto court.

    But Crown counsel Jocelyn Speyer said Friday that Mojab was not the one who brought up honour killing.

    "The phenomenon of honour killing and the possible role as motive in this case came from Mohammad Shafia himself," she said on the second day of a two-day appeal hearing.

    She pointed to police wiretap evidence of Mohammad Shafia condemning his dead daughters for having dishonoured their family.

    "God's curse on them for generations," Speyer quoted Shafia as saying in a transcript of one of the wiretapped calls. "May the devil shit on their graves. Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore? Honourless girl."

    The bodies of the three Shafia sisters — Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 — and Rona Amir Mohammad, 58, were found in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ont., on June 30, 2009. The family emigrated from Afghanistan in 2007 and was living in Montreal at the time of the murders.

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  84. Speyer said Mojab herself did not testify about what Mohammad Shafia thought about honour and took pains to explain to the jury that honour killings are extremely rare and broadly condemned in Middle Eastern societies.

    Majob's testimony did not amount to "cultural profiling," as the lawyers for the Shafias argued, but merely equipped the jury to understand an issue in the trial, Speyer told the court.

    "She is not stigmatizing or seeking to generalize or profile an entire nation," Speyer said. "She didn't offer any opinion that this case was a case of honour killing."

    Photo, passport counter age claim

    The Crown also argued earlier Friday that evidence presented in court Thursday suggesting Hamed Shafia was 17 at the time of the murders was unreliable and contradicted by several other documents from the family's native Afghanistan.

    "There is a substantial body of reliable evidence that Hamed was 18 at the end of June 2009," Speyer said.

    Hamed Shafia's lawyer, Scott Hutchison, argued yesterday that the new evidence about his age means he should get a new trial or barring that, a new sentencing hearing or a reduction of his sentence. Young offenders sentenced as adults to life for first-degree murder are eligible for parole after 10 years.

    But Speyer said there is overwhelming evidence that Shafia was 18 in June 2009. Two passports issued by Afghanistan to Hamed in 1996 and 2006, respectively, indicate he was born in December 1990.

    She pointed out that if Hamed was, indeed, born in December 1991 as his lawyers allege, then that would make his younger sister Sahar's year of birth 1992 and not the officially registered 1991.

    Yet a Shafia family photo from 1992 shows both Hamed and younger sister Sahar with an even younger sibling born that year.

    That photo proves that Hamed had to have been born on 1990, Sahar in 1991 and the younger sibling in 1992, Speyer told the three judges hearing the appeal.

    "It doesn't work. The only thing that works are the officially recorded dates of birth," she said.

    The Shafias' team of lawyers also argued Friday that the trial judge should not have suggested to the jury that if they found statements the Shafias originally gave to police to be false, they could consider those statements as proof of guilt.

    As well, they alleged the judge made several errors in law regarding the admissibility of various other evidence.

    But the Crown on Friday said all of the points raised in the appeal are inconsequential in the face of the overwhelming evidence presented at trial that showed beyond a doubt that the vehicle in which the sisters and Mohammad were travelling was intentionally pushed into the canal and the three members of the Shafia family were responsible.