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Shafia Honour Killing Trial: Mohammad Shafia Brother Testifies

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SHAFIA TRIAL
From left: Mohammad Shafia, son Hamed Shafia, and mother Tooba Yahya are standing trial. | AP

KINGSTON, Ont. - Honour is very important to a man accused of killing half of his family, allegedly in a so-called honour killing, but Mohammad Shafia is no murderer, his half-brother said Tuesday.

Dr. Mohammad Anwar Yaqubi, in one of several outbursts in which he vehemently asserted his sibling is innocent, suggested it's the police and prosecutors who should be in prison instead of Shafia and his co-accused wife and son. Wiretaps that the Crown says show Shafia's lingering anger over his daughters' dating habits, in which he calls them "whores," actually exonerate Shafia because he never explicitly says he committed murder, Yaqubi said.

"If you listen to them properly and you analyze them properly you'll find out that dear (Shafia) shouldn't be here," Yaqubi said in response to a question about how many hours he spent listening to the recordings.

"I think these people (the three accused) should be released and those people ... who were in charge of these interrogations or investigation, I think they didn't do their job properly. They should be put in this spot."

Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, are on trial in Kingston, Ont., charged with four counts each of first-degree murder. They've pleaded not guilty in the deaths of Shafia and Yahya's daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's first wife in a polygamous marriage.

The Crown alleges the four, all of whom they say expressed desires to leave or tried to leave the family home in various ways, were killed to protect family honour. Shafia was particularly enraged to learn about the dating habits of his two older daughters, court has heard.

Honour was a big deal for Shafia, Yaqubi agreed under cross-examination.

"The way which I know him, the honour is very important for him, but we have to be very careful that honour is a subjective issue," he said in Dari through an interpreter. "It's not something that if someone's daughter get a boyfriend, it doesn't bring shame to that family. The honour depends on his attitude and his fidelity and also his honesty in his work."

The expressions Shafia uses on the wiretaps, recorded a couple of weeks after his daughters died, in which he refers to them as treacherous, whores, honourless and says, "May the devil (defecate) on their graves," are common among men from Afghanistan when they are upset, Yaqubi said. The wiretaps show Shafia was angry, but also grieving, he said.

"In Afghani culture in order to train your family sometimes in order to discipline them, you have to use some terrible words because those people should know their limits," he said. "You can't compare that with this culture which is here."

But the Crown suggested Yaqubi doesn't know his half-brother very well at present, since he has only had sporadic communication, consisting of a handful of telephone calls on major holidays, since 1994.

"My brother," Yaqubi said, "is not a murderer."

Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis also returned to an offhand remark Yaqubi made in his testimony Monday. He said that after an incident in which Rona Mohammad fell carrying Hamed as a toddler, injuring them both, some relatives thought Yahya had pushed her.

Surely that's evidence of animosity between Shafia's two wives, Laarhuis said.

Yaqubi laughed and said people were just jealous of that "ideal family."

"Look, this was a rich, a multimillionaire family," he said. "They had the best house ... There were a lot of differences between this family and the other families. They were the envy of the other families and the jealousy caused ... them to say these things."

Judge Robert Maranger dismissed the jury for the day Tuesday morning, telling them to return at 9 a.m. the following day for the last witness of the trial.

The trial, which has drawn a packed courtroom of spectators nearly every day, began on Oct. 20. Since then the jury has heard from 57 witnesses and seen nearly 160 exhibits. Maranger has previously told the jury the case will finish by the end of January.

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