Afghans sentenced in Canada 'honor killings'
By Kenneth Jackson (AFP) – 4 hours ago
KINGSTON, Canada — An Afghan immigrant couple and their son were found guilty in a Canadian court Sunday of first degree murder in the 2009 "honor killing" deaths of four female family members, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The jury in Kingston, Ontario, deliberated for two days before pronouncing a guilty sentence against Mohammad Shafia, 58, his 42-year-old wife Tooba Mahommad Yahya and their 21-year-old son Hamed.
Their defense attorneys said they would appeal the convictions.
Judge Robert Maranger called the crimes "heinous" as he sentenced the accused to 25 years in prison, and said the evidence clearly supported the charges.
"The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor," the judge said.
"It's a sick notion of honor that has no place in a civilized society."
Mohammad Shafia replied: "We are not criminals. We are not murderers. We didn't commit murder. This is unjust."
"I am not a murderer. I am a mother," echoed Tooba Yahya.
The three defendants were found guilty of the deaths of the couple's three daughters and Shafia's first wife in his polygamous marriage after a four-month-long trial that heard dozens of witnesses testify.
The bodies of the victims -- Zainab Shafia, 19; Sahar Shafia, 17; Geeti Shafia, 13; and Rona Amir Mohammad, 50 -- were found in a car submerged in a canal lock near Kingston, Ontario in June 2009.
Court testimony told of an abusive home gripped by fear and where the victims received frequent death threats, in part over the fact that the two eldest daughters had boyfriends without their father's approval.
Prosecutors argued throughout the four-month trial the murders were staged as an accident by the accused to cover up what they called an honor killing.
They said the victims were drowned or rendered unconscious before being put in a car and then pushed into the water.
It was argued that in the eyes of the father the three girls had damaged the family's reputation with their indiscretions, such as wearing revealing clothing and telling school officials of alleged abuse at home.
Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle said in her closing arguments that the goal was to "remove the diseased limb" from the family tree.
The defense, however, maintained the deaths were accidental and a result of the eldest daughter going on a joyride. They contend Zainab took the car in the middle of the night while the family slept at a Kingston motel overnight where they stopped to rest returning to Montreal from a trip to Niagara Falls.
Shafia and his family had come to Canada in 2007, after living in Australia, Pakistan and Dubai over the previous 15 years.
On the morning of the deaths, a car was discovered underwater at the upper lock at Kingston Mills with the four bodies inside. A post-mortem examination indicated they died of drowning.
Canada has seen 13 such killings -- which are more common in countries in the Middle East and South Asia -- since 2002, Amin Muhammed, a psychiatry professor at Memorial University in Saint John's, Newfoundland, said in October.