VANCOUVER - Shortly before her murder in India more than a decade ago, a young Maple Ridge, B.C., woman began to fear for her life because her family found out she had secretly married a man against their wishes.
Jaswinder, or Jassi, Sidhu relayed her fears to her friends, and the admissibility of what was told to them is now being debated in the extradition hearing of Sidhu's mother and uncle.
On Tuesday, a lawyer representing the federal attorney general argued the second-hand evidence presented earlier in the hearing by Sidhu's friends should be admissible because the 25-year-old had no reason to lie to them.
"With the exception of Cpl. Cook (an RCMP officer), Jassi's statements were made to her friends and her teacher, people she was close to," Diba Majzub told the court. "Jassi had no reason to deceive these people…She stood with nothing to gain from that."
Sidhu was found dead in June 2000 in India, where she had gone to reunite with her husband, Sukhwinder (Mithu) Sidhu, after fleeing her family home in B.C. Sidhu had intended to bring Mithu back to Canada, but she never made it.
Her mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and her uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, face extradition to India, where they have been charged with conspiracy to murder. Both people appeared by video link on Tuesday.
Second-hand, or hearsay evidence, is generally not admissible in court, but Majzub argued an exception should be made because the testimonies all show that Sidhu meant to defy her family, and that she feared what they would do to her if they found out.
"There is clear evidence of Jassi's state of mind at this case, that her intention was to return to India, free her husband…and continue her marriage, and bring Mithu back to Canada — all of which is in defiance of the strongly expressed wishes of her family, specifically her uncle and mother," he said.
Badesha's lawyer Michael Klein had noted there are inconsistencies between witness statements about things such as how often Badesha visited the beauty salon where Sidhu worked.
But Majzub said those issues should be considered tangential, and outside of the question of reliability of the hearsay statements.
Majzub also suggested that Sidhu's defiance, as told to her friends, gave her mother and uncle a motive to have her murdered in what Indian authorities say was an honour killing.
Sidhu and her husband were attacked near a village in Punjab in June 2000. Sidhu's beaten body was found in a canal, while her husband survived.
Earlier in the hearing, a coworker testified that Sidhu told her that Badesha had arranged for people in India to threaten and beat Mithu. Other friends also testified that Sidhu said she was afraid of her family and what they were capable of.
Sidhu's family has denied their involvement in her murder. Seven people were convicted in India for her death, but several of those convictions were overturned on appeal.
Note to readers: This is a corrected version. A previous version misspelled Diba Majzub's name.