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Jury finds Afghan family guilty in honor killings

Mohammad Shafia, front, and Tooba Yahya are escorted into the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on Friday. (AP)
Mohammad Shafia, front, and Tooba Yahya are escorted into the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on Friday. (AP)
KINGSTON, Ontario (AP) -- A jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as ``cold-blooded, shameful murders'' resulting from a ``twisted concept of honor,'' ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped for the night on their way home to Montreal from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The prosecution alleged it was a case of premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out. Prosecutors said the defendants drowned their victims elsewhere on the site, placed their bodies in the car and pushed it into the canal.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger said the evidence clearly supported the conviction.

``It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime,'' Maranger said. ``The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor ... that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.''

In a statement following the verdict, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson called honor killings a practice that is ``barbaric and unacceptable in Canada.''

Defense lawyers said the deaths were accidental. They said the Nissan car accidentally plunged into the canal after the eldest daughter, Zainab, took it for a joy ride with her sisters and her father's first wife. Hamed said he watched the accident, although he didn't call police from the scene.

After the jury returned the verdicts, Mohammad Shafia, speaking through a translator, said, ``We are not criminal, we are not murderer, we didn't commit the murder and this is unjust.''

His weeping wife, Tooba, also declared the verdict unjust, saying, ``I am not a murderer, and I am a mother, a mother.''

Their son, Hamed, speaking in English said, ``I did not drown my sisters anywhere.''

Hamed's lawyer, Patrick McCann, said he was disappointed with the verdict, but said his client will appeal and he believes the other two defendants will as well.

But prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis welcomed the verdict.

``This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances,'' Laarhuis said outside court.

``This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy,'' he said to cheers of approval from onlookers.

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.

Shafia's first wife was living with him and his second wife. The polygamous relationship, if revealed, could have resulted in their deportation.

The prosecution painted a picture of a household controlled by a domineering Shafia, with Hamed keeping his sisters in line and doling out discipline when his father was away on frequent business trips to Dubai.

The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, according to evidence presented at trial. Zainab, the oldest daughter, 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.

The prosecution said her parents found condoms in Sahar's room as well as photos of her wearing short skirts and hugging her Christian boyfriend, a relationship she had kept secret. Geeti was becoming almost impossible to control: skipping school, failing classes, being sent home for wearing revealing clothes and stealing, while declaring to authority figures that she wanted to be placed in foster care, according to the prosecution.

Shafia's first wife wrote in a diary that her husband beat her and ``made life a torture,'' while his second wife called her a servant.

The prosecution presented wire taps and mobile phone records from the Shafia family in court to support their honor killing allegation. 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.

``There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this,'' Shafia said on one recording. ``Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows ... nothing is more dear to me than my honor.''

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

Shafia's lawyer, Peter Kemp, said after the verdicts that he believes the comments his client made on the wiretaps may have weighed more heavily on the jury's minds than the physical evidence in the case.

``He wasn't convicted for what he did,'' Kemp said. ``He was convicted for what he said.''

 

 

<한글기사>

비정男, 문란하다고 딸셋, 부인 '명예살인'



캐나다 배심원단은 29일(현지시간) 첫째  부 인과 딸 3명을 '명예 살인'한 혐의로 아프가니스탄 출신 캐나다 이민자 아버지와 그 가족에게 결국 1급 살인 유죄 평결을 내렸다.

지난 3개월 동안 진행돼온 이 재판은 중혼이 허용된 아프간 이민자들의 엄격한 가부장적 이슬람 풍습이 큰 논란을 일으키는 가운데 이들이 자유로운 서방세계로 이 민 와서 겪는 가치관의 혼란, 가족 파괴현상 등이 이번 사건에서도 적나라하게 드러 났다는 점에서 캐나다 전역에서 큰 관심을 끌어왔다.

이들 가족은 지난 1992년 아프간을 떠나 파키스탄에서 잠시 살다가 호주와 두바 이를 거쳐 지난 2007년 캐나다에 정착했던 것으로 나타났다.

샤피아(58)라는 아버지는 부유한 사업가였으나 첫째 부인 로나 아미르 모하매드 (52)가 아이를 가질 수 없게 되자 투바 야흐야(42)라는 두번째 부인과 결혼, 아들 하메드(21)를 낳고 캐나다로 건너와 함께 살아왔다.

첫번째 아내와 사이에서는 자이나브(19), 샤하르(17), 지티(13)라는 딸 셋을 두 고 있었고, 이들도 같이 캐나다로 왔다.

남편과 두 부인은 중혼 사실이 밝혀지면 캐나다에서 추방되는 만큼  사촌지간이 라고 말해 왔고, 첫 부인은 자신을 하녀처럼 학대했다는 일기를 남겼다.

배심원단은 29일 장장 15시간의 토론 끝에 샤피아와 그의 둘째부인 야흐야 및 아들 하메드가, 샤피아의 첫 부인과 그 딸 셋 등 네 명을 살해했다고 평결했다.

배심원은 샤피아와 두번째 부인, 그 아들이 "왜곡된 '부정한 여성 살해죄'를 저 질렀다"며 냉혈한적이고 치욕적인 살인자들이라고 언급했다.

앞서 희생자들 시신은 지난 2009년 6월 온타리오주 킹스턴의 한 운하에 빠진 닛 산 승용차 속에서 발견됐는데, 이들은 당시 나이애가라 폭포를 구경하고 몬트리올 자택으로 돌아가던 중 킹스턴에서 하룻밤을 묶을 예정이었다.

앞서 검찰은 샤피아 등이 첫째 부인 소생 딸들이 이슬람 전통 규범에 벗어나는 현란한 옷을 입고, 현지인들과 자유롭게 데이트하며 가출하는 등 가족의 명예를  떨 어뜨렸다고 판단, 살해했다고 주장했다.

그러나 피고측은 사망한 큰딸이 여행에서 들뜬 나머지 운전대를 잡고  부주의하 게 운전하다 운하로 곤두박질 쳤다고 반박하면서 자신들은 무죄라고 항변했다.

검찰은 피고들이 다른 장소에서 희생자들을 살해한 뒤 사체를 차에 실어 운하에 빠트리는 등 시신을 유기했고, 우연한 사고인 것처럼 위장했을 것으로 판단하고  있 다.

이들은 이 유죄 평결로 25년 내 가석방이 안 되는 무기 징역형에 처해진다.  캐 나다는 현재 사형제가 없다.

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