As a former refugee adjudicator, I feel a need to say that such customs as honor killings, bride burnings, acid attacks, holiday brides, female genital mutilation, and similar customs or practices, whoever may carry them out, are, in my view, unacceptable by any standard. An honor killing is the manner in which some relatives in some countries express their disapproval of a son or daughter having made their own choice in marriage or their disapproval of that choice.
This alleged honor killing, if it proves to be one in actuality, illustrates the export of customs which may not be prosecuted in some countries and are justified as customary or lawful according to local standards, but which, I hope, are prosecuted to the full measure of the law in the countries they are exported to.
I don’t honor any body of laws that permits these crimes. I also don’t accept that any religion, sincerely interpreted, can be found to justify this practice. I say this fully knowing that Western countries are also committing atrocities abroad. Neither is, in my view, acceptable.
A broken light at heart of murder case
Timothy Appleby, Globe and Mail, Toronto, Oct. 21, 2011
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Deaths of three teens and woman well-planned in twisted interpretation of Afghan ‘honour killings’ tradition, prosecutor contends
Mohammad Shafia, left, Hamed Shafia, middle, and Tooba Mohammad Yahya are escorted into the courthouse on Thursday.
Put together – literally – by Kingston police, the court exhibits were placed before a jury on Thursday and go to the heart of the prosecution’s case against two men and a woman accused of committing four “honour killings” allegedly rooted in a perverse interpretation of Afghan tradition.
Plastic shards from a smashed headlight discovered near a Kingston lock where four bodies were found in a submerged Nissan Sentra matched pieces later taken from a Montreal home, a murder trial has heard. And still another fragment was located at a parking barrier in the same city.
The four victims were three teenaged sisters and the first wife of the wealthy businessman charged with orchestrating the deaths with his son and second wife and disposing of the bodies by faking an accident at the Kingston Mills lock in June, 2009.
Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, 41-year-old Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son, Hamed, 21, are accused of killing the couple’s three teenaged daughters, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, and Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 53,
It was all planned well ahead of time, Crown prosecutor Laurie Lacelle told the jury of seven women and five men in her opening remarks, outlining a wealth of incriminating acts before and after the deaths.
They included: A Google inquiry on Mr. Shafia’s home computer about “where to commit a murder.”
A wiretapped conversation in which he said of the four victims: “God’s curse on them for generations,” and “There is nothing more important than our honour.”
The family was travelling in the Nissan and a Lexus back to their Montreal-area home after a short vacation in Niagara Falls and stopped overnight in Kingston. Mr. Shafia and Ms. Yahya went to the Kingston police the next day to report four missing.
Mr. Shafia said their rebellious elder daughter, Zainab, 19, took the Nissan without permission.
By then, the submerged car had been found in the Rideau Canal just east of Kingston, and when told of this, Mr. Shafia and his wife voiced shock at what seemed like a dreadful accident.
But it was no accident, Ms. Lacelle told the jury.
The Nissan was propelled into the lock with the Lexus, she said, and the splinters of smashed headlight were key to what happened.
Hamed Shafia told police the light was broken when he struck a parking barrier in Montreal, and a piece was found where he said the accident occurred. Other bits were in the Lexus, parked in the family garage.
But the seven fragments found near the lock told a different story, the prosecutor contended, adding that the parking-barrier incident was a ruse.
Autopsies showed that all four victims drowned, Ms. Lacelle said, but it was not clear where and how.
The three teenagers all had fresh bruises on their heads, she said.
The prosecutor painted a picture of an abusive, severely dysfunctional family in which the daughters were treated like chattels.
Mr. Shafia and his son, she said, were particularly upset about the girls’ Western lifestyle, most of all their interest in dating young men.
Seated in the prisoner’s box, the two men were impassive, but Ms. Yahya sometimes wept.
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The Shafia family lived in a polygamous arrangement and moved to Canada in 2007, settling in the Montreal borough of St. Leonard after living in Australia, Pakistan and then in Dubai for 15 years.
The trial before Mr. Justice Robert Maranger of the Ontario Superior Court is expected to hear from almost 60 witnesses and last two to three months.