Afghan Family Found Guilty of Honour Killings in Canada

A JURY has found an Afghan father, his wife and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another wife in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honour" in a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

A JURY has found an Afghan father, his wife and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another wife in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honour" in a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

Mohammad Shafia, front, Tooba Yahya, right, and son Hamed Shafia, rear, have been found guilty of murder

The Shafia family moved to Canada in 2007, after living in Australia, Pakistan and Dubai over the previous 15 years.

Canadian prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonoured the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socialising 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.

The crime 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, Mr Shafia's childless first wife from 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.

The prosecution alleged it was a case of premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident.

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 honourless crime," Mr Maranger said.

"The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honour ... that has absolutely no place in any civilised society."

Defence 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," Mr Laarhuis said outside court.

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 Mr 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.

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.

Mr 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.

Sahar Shafia, left, Zainab, top, and Geeti

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

The wire taps, which capture Mr 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," Mr Shafia said on one recording. "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows ... nothing is more dear to me than my honour."