A mother charged with killing three of her daughters and the first wife in her polygamous marriage accused prosecutors of making up stories and criticized authorities for jailing a "respectable family," during her last day of cross-examination.
Tooba Yahya, 41, faced a sixth day of grilling about the circumstances surrounding the early morning on June 30, 2009, when Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir, 52, were found dead in a car submerged in the Kingston Mills lock.
Yahya, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 59, and their son Hamed, 21, are all charged with four counts of first-degree murder and have pleaded not guilty.
During testimony in a Kingston, Ont., court late Monday morning, Yahya said she had been "wrongfully charged" and described the arrest of the three accused as unjustified.
"This was a respectable family that was grieving and they put them under arrest," she said. "Under this suspicion you brought a respected family and put them into jail for two years. You took the freedom and the family's freedom and put us in [jail]."
Yahya also compared the Crown's theories about what happened that night to a child's bedtime stories.
"This is a court date," she told Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis. "People want to know the truth, not to make up stories from your mind."
Victims wanted to leave, Crown says
The Crown alleges the four family members were killed because Sahar and Zainab Shafia were thought to have dishonoured the family by having boyfriends and living a modern lifestyle.
Laarhuis argued that the victims were under the tight control of Yahya and Mohammad Shafia, noting that all four expressed a desire to leave the family's home. Yahya denied this was true.
Yahya was also asked about her reaction to wiretap transcripts obtained by authorities before the three accused were arrested in July 2009, in which she says police lied about having video surveillance at the lock.
"Why are you adamant that the police are lying?" Laarhuis asked Monday. "Why aren't you relieved that they now have footage of what happened to your daughters?"
Yahya denied saying that police had lied. Her only concern, she said, was that the camera could have captured the family's previous visits to the site in 2008 and on their way to Niagara Falls in 2009.
As the judge was adjourning the court for recess, one of the Shafia children ran up to the glass partition where the accused were seated, banged on the glass and kissed Mohammad Shafia through the glass.
Shafia half-siblings testify
The court also heard from two of Mohammad Shafia's half-siblings.
Farida Nayebkheil said Shafia was not religious and grew up in a liberal household in Afghanistan. She and her sisters attended university and did not wear the hijab, which she said was normal for their family.
Under cross-examination, Nayebkheil misidentified Sahar in a photo and said she hadn't seen the family for years but spoke regularly to Shafia's first wife on the phone.
Nayebkheil testified she was surprised to learn Shafia called his daughters whores after they died, and Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle suggested in cross-examination that Nayebkheil doesn't know her half-brother very well.
Nayebkheil, who was born in Kabul and has also lived in Turkey and Moscow, has spent the past 17 years in Denmark and did not have regular contact with her brother, court heard. She didn't learn until two weeks after the incident that her nieces had died, she said.
Shafia's half-brother, Dr. Mohammad Anwar Yaqubi, testified that his relationship with Shafia growing up was "very sincere."
Shafia married Yahya because his first wife couldn't have children, Yaqubi said. He told the court that Shafia's first wife was happy about the marriage and attended Shafia and Yahya's wedding in Kabul.
"It shows how much sincerity and love there was between these two women." he said. "Rona was very happy and grateful to dear Tooba."
Yaqubi said before her death, Shafia's first wife would contact him about once a month, usually to talk about family issues and what was happening with everyone in the family. He said she never complained about Yahya or said anything about any problems concerning the children.
He also testified about Shafia's temper, saying his brother often used angry expressions.
"The weapon he had was his tongue," Shafia's brother testified. "When someone didn't pay him on time or there was a betrayal … he just said that … That was the way he expressed his rage."
Before the proceedings concluded for the day, the defence lawyer asked Yaqubi, "Did you ever have a real concern that he would actually kill someone?" Yaqubi responded, "No. Never."
Accused claims statement made under duress
In testimony last week, Yahya said she had no knowledge of how the four family members ended up at the bottom of the lock on the Rideau Canal.
Yahya said an earlier version of events, in which she told a police officer she had been at the scene, was a fabrication made up under duress.
She maintained that the last time she saw the victims was at the hotel where the family stopped for the night during their return to Montreal from a family vacation in Niagara Falls, Ont.
On Friday, Laarhuis laid out the prosecution's theory about what happened that night.
He said the four never made it to that hotel. He alleged that Yahya drove them right to the lock and met up with Shafia and Hamed after they dropped off the other children.
Car rammed into canal, Crown says
Laarhuis alleged that the four, who were either sleeping or already dead, were in the Nissan when someone positioned it in front of the lock, rolled down the window, got out and put it into drive.
When the car got hung up on its way into the water, he alleged, someone got behind the wheel of the family's Lexus and pushed the Nissan into the lock.
Yahya denied this version of events, saying she would have done anything for her daughters.
She said she had gone right to sleep at the hotel after her daughter Zainab came in and asked for the keys and didn't know the women were missing until the next day.
The family waited until noon to report them missing, she said, because they thought they would return, and the parents didn't speak English or know the area.