Accused multiple murderer Mohammad Shafia talked of wanting to kill his eldest daughter Zainab (inset), the Montreal man’s murder trial heard from a male relative of the Shafia family for the second time in a week. “He said, ‘I’m not happy … and she didn’t do a good thing, if I was there I would have killed her,’ ” Latif Hyderi testified Thursday, recounting a conversation with Shafia.
Sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti Shafia, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found dead in a Nissan Sentra submerged in a canal in Kingston on June 30, 2009. Rona was Shafia’s first wife, whom he married in Afghanistan.
Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing, an ancient cultural practice in which girls or women may be killed for disobedience or seemingly immoral behaviour that is perceived to have shamed the family.
Hyderi, 65, is Yahya’s paternal uncle. He is a native of Afghanistan who came to Canada 11 years ago and who now lives in Montreal. He testified that Yahya asked him in the spring of 2009 to help sort out a family conflict in which Zainab was seeking to marry a young Pakistani man, against everyone’s wishes.
Hyderi said he had a telephone conversation with Shafia, while Shafia was in Dubai on business. Shafia said his daughter “wanted to dishonour me” and he called her a “whore” and “prostitute,” he testified.
“She is a dirty curse to me,” Hyderi said, quoting Shafia.
“I said, ‘Shafia, why do you want to do that? … children can make mistakes,’ ” Hyderi said, through an interpreter, because he speaks only Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages. “He was arrogant.”
The man said he spoke to Zainab about her impulsive decision to marry. She told him that her father had never called her by her name, instead using insults like “black snake,” he testified. Zainab told Hyderi she was constantly belittled by her father and subject to rigid rules about where she could go and whom she could see, he said.
“The only reason that I’m marrying is to get the revenge [for] the cruelty I suffer [from] my father,” Hyderi testified, repeating what he said Zainab told him.
Earlier this week, a brother of Yahya testified that Shafia tried to recruit him to help drown Zainab in Sweden, where the man lives.
Hyderi said Rona also complained to him of mistreatment.
“There is a lot of cruelty or oppression practised on me from Tooba and Shafia,” Hyderi testified that he was told one day when he bumped into Rona while walking in a park in St. Leonard. He said Rona claimed to have been “beaten a few times” and that she had “significant fear” of Shafia.
Hyderi acknowledged that he had served four years in prison in Afghanistan, during questioning by defence lawyer Peter Kemp.
“I was against the Russian regime who had invaded our land and we did jihad,” he said, explaining why he was jailed.
Kemp asked Hyderi if he was sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder in which a man was attacked with knives in Afghanistan.
“It’s a fabrication,” Hyderi said, later acknowledging that there “was an incident” when he was 14 or 15 years old involving his brother and his brother’s business partner. He insisted he did not go to prison.
Late Thursday, jurors began listening to audio recordings secretly made by police before the Shafias were arrested on July 22, 2009.
The first recording came from a bug hidden inside the family’s Pontiac mini-van on July 18. On that day, Shafia, Yahya and Hamed drove to Kingston from Montreal on invitation from police, who had concocted an elaborate ruse. Officers told the three they believed they had figured out how the victims died in an “accident” and they wanted to demonstrate their theory at the spot where the car was found underwater.
Police had mounted a phony surveillance camera at the scene and when they got there, officers said they would seek to get any video the camera captured.
“There was no camera, they’re lying,” Yahya is heard saying inside the van, after the trio left Kingston to head back to Montreal. “There was no camera. If there had been a camera, they would have taken that out first thing on the very first day.”
Later, Yahya adds: “There was no camera over there. I looked around, there wasn’t any. If God forbid, God forbid, there was one in that little room, all three of us would have been recorded.”
Shafia responds: “No, had there been one there, they would have checked it first thing and they would have held you to account that night.”
He also notes that it was “pitch darkness” there that night.
“There wasn’t the slightest glimmer of light or electricity,” Shafia is heard saying. “Even that room’s light was off.”
The trial resumes Monday.
(This appeared first at the Montreal Gazette)