June 27, 2014
NEW YORK — The New York City cab driver from Pakistan and his daughter both began weeping the second she first took the witness stand at his murder conspiracy trial. Once composed, she told a jury that they had a loving relationship — and that he had once threatened to kill her.
The encounter came in a case where Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry has pleaded not guilty to charges he arranged the killings last year of two relatives of a man who helped his daughter flee an arranged marriage in Pakistan. Prosecutors at the trial in federal court in Brooklyn have likened the shooting deaths to so-called honor killings — the ruthless vigilantism against Pakistani women accused of disgracing their families.
‘‘I don’t want to hear any more complaints about you,’’ Amina Ajmal, 23, claimed her father warned her when he first learned she wanted out of the marriage. ‘‘I will kill you if you do anything wrong.’’
Though she agreed to testify for the government, Ajmal often sounded and acted on Thursday like she didn’t want to be there. There were long pauses before meekly mumbling answers to prosecutor’s questions about her father’s alleged misdeeds. Yes, she answered, he had threatened her, but she quickly added, ‘‘I don’t think he meant it.’’
The defense claims that Choudhry, who was in Brooklyn at the time of the deaths in Pakistan, had no hand in them. They say government agents coached the daughter on how to manipulate her father into making empty threats that were recorded for use as evidence against him.
Ajmal was born in Pakistan, lost her mother as a child, and was largely raised in Brooklyn by her Muslim father. She testified she was the only one of his five children to take to Western trappings like social media and to go to college. But in 2009, she said, her father tricked her into visiting Pakistan so the family could force her to marry one of her cousins there.