Afghan Family in Canada Found Guilty of 'Honor Killing'

Three members of an Afghan family living in Canada killed their four female relatives for bringing "dishonor" by dressing "indecently," dating a Christian man, and using the Internet, a Canadian jury said while pronouncing them guilty of "cold-blooded, shameful murders."

The jury convicted an Afghan immigrant couple – identified as 58-year-old Mohammad Shafia and his 42-year-old wife Tooba Yahya – and their 21-year-old son Hamed for drowning the three sisters as well as Shafia's first wife, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The bodies of Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, on June 30, 2009. The family had stopped in Kingston while returning home to Montreal from Niagara Falls. The four women were "strong, vivacious and freedom-loving," the prosecution said.

"It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime," Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger was quoted as saying. "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 civilized society."

The murders, the prosecutors alleged, were staged to look like an accident. However, defense lawyers claimed the eldest sister took the car for a joy ride along with her two sisters and her father's first wife, and it accidently fell into the canal. The three convicts denied they killed their own family members. Shafia was living with both wives although polygamy is illegal in Canada.

The three family members were each found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Killing members to "protect" the "honor" of a family is "barbaric and unacceptable in Canada," Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement following the verdict.

The prosecution found that the family had restricted Zainab from attending school to keep her away from her Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend. She had to flee to a shelter. From Sahar's room, the parents found condoms as well as photos of her wearing short skirts and hugging her Christian boyfriend. Geeti was being sent home from school for wearing revealing clothes and stealing. And Mohammad, the first wife, was being mistreated by Shafia and his second wife.

Wire taps and mobile phone records supported the charges. "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."