KINGSTON, Ontario - A Canadian 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."
The jury found Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, which carries an
automatic life sentence.
The three defendants maintained 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 who lived with the family in a polygamous marriage.
Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating,
socializing and using the Internet.
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.
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.
But 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
During the trial, 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."