Were Mohammad Shafia’s plaintive pleas of innocence – “I’m not a killer” – echoing in the minds of jurors for the past 25 days? The murder trial of Shafia (inset), 58, his wife Tooba, 42, and their son Hamed, who turned 21 on New Year’s Eve, has been on hold for more than three weeks now, adjourned for a Christmas and New Year break. The trial resumes today in Kingston, Ontario, in front of judge Robert Maranger , with the accused mother and son beginning to present evidence in their defence.
Before the trial adjourned on Dec. 14, jurors heard from Shafia himself. He spent a day and a half on the witness stand, answering questions from his Kingston lawyer, Peter Kemp. Then he faced a lengthy interrogation by Crown prosecutor Laurie Lacelle, who was calm and methodical as she quizzed Shafia about many of the seemingly incriminating statements he was heard to make on secret police wiretaps. Lacelle’s cross-examination of Shafia ended when she asked him about one recorded conversation in which Shafia was heard to say that “there is nothing more valuable than our honour.” He acknowledged he had said it, but insisted that everything he had done in life was for the betterment of his family, particularly children:
Yes, I’m Muslim. I don’t deny that. But I’m not a killer, and I don’t kill … I never thought about that – to come here, in order to kill my children. I came here, in order to train and educate my children – to take them to school. What happened? God knows. God knows, and his business. I have no information. I don’t know about that.
The accused are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty to killing Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife. He married her in Afghanistan before the family moved to Canada in 2007. The victims were found dead June 30, 2009, inside a submerged Nissan Sentra that was at the bottom of a shallow canal in Kingston. Prosecutors allege the victims died in an honour killing, orchestrated by Shafia. The prosecution maintains that Shafia was enraged that his daughters were dressing in revealing clothes and consorting with boys. Geeti was defiant and was demanding to leave the house. Jurors have heard that Rona wanted a divorce.
The accused maintain that Zainab took the car without permission and crashed it into the canal.
The trial is expected to conclude this month.