Closing arguments conclude in honor killing trial

AP News
Posted: Jan 26, 2012 11:31 PM
Closing arguments conclude in honor killing trial

Evidence against three people accused of killing half their family over reasons of honor is "irrefutable," a prosecutor told jurors Thursday in closing arguments.

Laurie Lacelle told the jury that Afghan-born Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, were responsible for planning and carrying out the murders of their four family members.

She urged the jury to find all three guilty in what the prosecution has alleged was a quadruple honor killing of Shafia's three daughters and his other wife in a polygamous relationship.

The parents and son, Hamed, have pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and defense lawyers told the jury in closing arguments the evidence suggests the deaths were an accident.

The accused allegedly killed the daughters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and going online. The fourth victim was Shafia's first wife who was living with him and his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, in Montreal. The polygamous relationship, if revealed, could have resulted in their deportation.

Police made a grisly discovery in the summer of 2009 in canal locks east of Toronto: In a submerged Nissan car were the bodies of three teenage sisters and a 52-year-old woman.

The prosecution alleges it was a premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out.

"Shafia, Tooba and Hamed had decided that there was a diseased limb on their family tree," Lacelle said. "Their decision was to trim the diseased limb and prune the tree back to the good wood."

But defense lawyers told the jury in closing arguments the evidence does indeed fit with the deaths being an accident. The court has heard evidence that it appears the four made no attempt to escape the car through an open window, and the bodies were found eerily suspended inside. Defense lawyer Peter Kemp suggested that's plausible in an accident scenario.

Kemp has told the jury that there are too many unknowns to be able to convict the accused, saying the jury doesn't know where or how the alleged murders happened.

Lacelle presented wire taps and cell phone records from the Shafia family in court. In one phone conversation, the father says his daughters "betrayed us immensely."

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.

But defense lawyers argued that at no point in the intercepts do the accused say they drowned the victims.

Fazil Javad, Shafia's brother-in-law, said Shafia tried to enlist him in a plan to drown the oldest daughter.

Judge Robert Maranger will give the jury final instructions Friday. Closing arguments lasted well into the evening Thursday after a bomb threat earlier delayed proceedings. Police Constable Steve Koopman couldn't say if the security threat was related to the Shafia trial.

The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Yahya because his first wife could not have children.

The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, the court has heard. Zainab, the oldest at 19, 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.