Afghan family guilty in honor killings of 4
Mohammad Shafia, front, Tooba Yahya, right, and their son, Hamed Shafia, are escorted at the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
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A jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor," ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.
Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.
After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Mr. Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage. Mr. Shafia's first wife was living with him and his second wife.
Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped for the night on their way home to Montreal from Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The prosecution alleged it was a case of premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out. Prosecutors said the defendants drowned their victims elsewhere on the site, placed their bodies in the car and pushed it into the canal.
Defense lawyers said the deaths were accidental.
But Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger was unmoved, saying the evidence clearly supported their conviction for "the planned and deliberate murder of four members of your family."
Hamed's lawyer, Patrick McCann, said his client will appeal and he believes the other two defendants will as well.
The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Mr. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Ms. Yahya because his first wife could not have children.
The prosecution painted a picture of a household controlled by a domineering Mr. Shafia, with Hamed keeping his sisters in line and doling out discipline when his father was away on frequent business trips to Dubai.
The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, according to evidence presented at trial. Zainab, the oldest daughter, was forbidden to attend school for a year because she had a young Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend, and she fled to a shelter, terrified of her father, the court was told.
The prosecution said her parents found condoms in Sahar's room as well as photos of her wearing short skirts and hugging her Christian boyfriend, a relationship she had kept secret. Geeti was becoming almost impossible to control: skipping school, failing classes, being sent home for wearing revealing clothes and stealing, while declaring to authority figures that she wanted to be placed in foster care, according to the prosecution.
Mr. Shafia's first wife wrote in a diary that her husband beat her and "made life a torture," while his second wife called her a servant.
The prosecution presented wire taps and cell phone records from the Shafia family in court to support their honor killing theory. The wiretaps, which capture Shafia spewing vitriol about his dead daughters, calling them treacherous and whores and invoking the devil to defecate on their graves, were a focal point of the trial.
"There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this," Mr. Shafia said on one recording. "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows ... nothing is more dear to me than my honor."
First Published January 30, 2012 12:00 am