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.
On Wednesday before Christmas, Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled that a baby at risk of becoming the victim of an “honour killing” must be adopted to keep her safe. The baby was the result of her unmarried Muslim mother’s secret affair with a married man and now had to be adopted to save it from being murdered by her mother’s family.
The child was conceived in 2009; when the mother found out she was pregnant, she was terrified of her family’s reaction and, with the help of sympathetic relatives, hid her pregnancy from most male family members and gave birth in a hospital far away from her home. When she returned home, she left the baby with adoptive Muslim parents. When the father found out about the pregnancy and the baby, however, he began proceedings to win custody. A High Court ruled, though, that the risk of retribution was too great and, in light of the danger that the mother’s family would kill the baby and her, the baby should stay with its adoptive parents. The Court of Appeal essentially confirmed this decision and regarded the risk of physical harm to the baby and its mother as being of major importance. The judges ruled that the desire amongst the mother’s relatives to preserve the family’s honour was simply too dangerous; therefore, the child has to be brought up by Muslim foster parents.
On Monday, a 35-year old man of Yazidi faith, who moved to Germany from Iraq in 2008, shot his 13-year-old daughter following a family mediation session with youth authorities in Stolzenau, Lower Saxony. Souzan B. had moved out of the family home due to family disputes a few months ago and had since been living in a state children’s home, supported by local authorities. Following an attempt at reconciliation between Souzan and her family, which had failed as Souzan refused to move back into the family home, the father had opened fire at her outside the authorities’ office and in front of the rest of the family. Following the incident, the man escaped and is still on the run, hunted by the police.
News Agencies – October 21, 2011
A car found at the bottom of an eastern Ontario canal with the bodies of three sisters and their father’s first wife suspended in the water inside seemed to trace a very deliberate path, a murder trial heard. In a case that has raised the issue of so-called honour killings, the Crown alleges the girls’ family couldn’t bear the “treachery” of their daughters having boyfriends, so they killed them and staged the scene to look like an accident.
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 in the deaths of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, Shafia’s first wife, who lived with the family in a polygamous relationship.
An expert will be called to testify about so-called honour killings and how in extreme cases, killing can be seen in some cultures as a way to restore honour to a family. Disobedience by a female member of the family can cause shame and taint family honour, the expert is expected testify. The trial is expected to last between two and three months.
A Kurdish father was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his 15-year-old daughter because she fell in love with a follower of a different branch of Islam.
A London judge gave Mehmet Goren, 49, a minimum 22-year prison sentence for his so-called “honour killing” of daughter Tulay, who disappeared a decade ago and was never found. He also was convicted of attacking her boyfriend with an ax.
Prosecutor Damaris Lakin said the fish-and-chip server killed his daughter for having a relationship with a Sunni Muslim. The Gorens adhered to the Alevi branch of the faith, which is linked to the Shiite sect of Islam.
The new document, which will be the citizenship study guide for the 250,000 immigrants who arrive in Canada each year, thus instantly becomes one of the country’s most widely read and potentially influential pieces of writing.
Canada’s revamped citizenship guide warns newcomers that “barbaric cultural practices” such as honor killings will not be tolerated, marking a stronger tone against importing beliefs that clash with Canadian values. “In Canada, men and women are equal under the law,” the document says. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honor killings,’ female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.” No longer will new Canadians be told that Canada is strictly a nation of peacekeepers, for example. The new guide places a much greater emphasis on Canada’s military history, from the Great War to the present day. It also tackles other issues of historical significance, from Confederation to Quebec’s separatist movement.
The guide, released yesterday and called “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Canadian Citizenship”, is the first of its kind to explicitly denounce violence in the name of family honor — a crime in the headlines just this week after an Ottawa man was sentenced to a year in jail for threatening violence against his daughter. While honor killings remain relatively rare in Canada, several high-profile cases have drawn attention to the issue. Even the use of the term “honor killings” has stirred debate, as critics of the wording say it implies the practice is accepted by certain religions when, in fact, it is not.
The inclusion of honor killings and spousal abuse in the guide reminded some onlookers of the tension over reasonable accommodation, a concept that came to a boiling point in Herouxville, QC. Farzana Hassan, spokeswoman for the Muslim Canadian Congress, said there is nothing controversial about the statement in the new guide, adding that it is a long-overdue step toward tackling a cultural practice that does not jibe with Canadian values. Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said the new guide fits with a Conservative strategy to redefine itself with regard to immigration, an issue that historically has been closely linked with the Liberal Party.
The term “honour” killing is under debate in many Western countries, including in Mississauga, Ontario, where the father and brother of teenager Aqsa Parvez will soon appear in court charged with her killing last December. The term itself, claims Craig Offman in this National Post article, is already on trial and remains a sensitive topic within multicultural societies. Critics argue the term is inherently racist and distracts from the issue of domestic violence. Others claim it remains critical to gaining understanding of motive and making it off limits undermines a community’s ability to acknowledge this particular abuse.
Toronto Life magazine created controversy last week in suggesting on its cover that Ms. Parvez’s strangulation was “Toronto’s first honour killing” and featured a story describing how her father Muhammad insisted his daughter remain modest before allegedly participating in her death.
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A father who tried to hire a hitman to carry out the “honour killing” of his son-in-law has lost a bid to have his prison term cut. Mohammed Arshad, 51, was jailed for seven years after being found guilty in 2003 of incitement to murder. The devout Muslim from Dundee took the action after his daughter married without his permission. Appeal judges said they were not convinced that the former justice of the peace received an unfair sentence. A local Islamic group had asked the court to impose community service. Arshad, a highly respected member of the Muslim community in Dundee, had an appeal against his conviction refused in March this year, but he has continued to challenge the length of the sentence. He put a price of _1,000 on son-in-law Abdullah Yasin’s head shortly after he married his daughter Insha in 2001. ‘Previous good character‘ Arshad objected to the marriage and had not given his permission for it to go ahead. However, he was caught after the “hitman” he approached turned out to be a Tayside Police detective. Arshad argued that his seven-year sentence was excessive and failed to take into account his previous good character and his state of health when he carried out the crime. A petition submitted to the court by the Tayside Islamic and Cultural Education Society, signed by more than 150 people, claimed Arshad was an honoured member of their community and asked judges to consider allowing him to serve his sentence in the community. Lawyers claimed Arshad was affected by ongoing depression, which was a “significant factor” in prompting him to act as he did. ‘Grave offence’ However, the judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh rejected the arguments, ruling that previous good character and the fact that he was unlikely to repeat the offence were not key mitigating factors. Lord Macfadyen and Lord Penrose stated in a written judgement: “We find nothing that persuades us that the sentencing judge erred in selecting a period of seven years’ imprisonment as the appropriate punishment for the appellant’s crimes. “What is of the greatest significance is that, when circumstances arose in which the appellant felt that his religious and cultural attitudes had been offended, he was prepared on that account to commit the extremely grave offence of incitement to murder. “We would add that we do not consider it appropriate in the circumstances to accord material weight to the views expressed in the petition which was laid before us.”