Mohammad Shafia, accused in the drowning deaths of his three daughters and first wife, told a Kingston, Ont. courtroom Friday he values honour, but there’s no honour in killing.
Shafia made the remarks after hours of grilling by the Crown lawyer, who alleges Shafia, his wife and his son killed their family members in 2009 because the girls’ boyfriends and behaviour brought disgrace on the family.
Crown prosecutor Laurie Lacelle made several direct references to wiretap evidence already presented in court in which Shafia is heard telling his wife and son there’s nothing more in life than honour.
"My honour is important to me," Shafia told the jury Friday. "But, to kill someone, you can’t regain your reputation and honour."
Expert witnesses testified earlier in the trial that in some cultures, when family honour is threatened, it is acceptable and expected that a male family member could kill a relative.
Shafia denied this, saying, in his culture, there is nothing more shameful than killing a wife or daughter.
"Can you tell me in which religion you kill someone and gain honour?" he said. "I don’t call that honour."
The 59-year-old patriarch, his wife Tooba Yahya, and their son Hamed face four counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of family members Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Mohammad Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52.
The four women were found dead in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal near Kingston in June 2009.
The testimony by Shafia during his second day on the stand stood in stark contrast to his conversations heard in the wiretap evidence, in which he called his daughters "whores" and thieves and at one point is heard saying "may the devil sh...t on their graves."
Throughout the intense cross-examination, during which Lacelle picked apart many of the inconsistencies between his testimony and evidence already presented, he maintained that the girls’ deaths were an accident and he was not responsible.
"I am not a killer," he told the court.
He said the family left Afghanistan because of the dangerous conditions and the the oppressive Taliban regime. His family was considered liberal and it wasn’t safe there, court heard during Shafia’s testimony.
"I never thought about coming here in order to kill my children. . . I came here in order to give them [training] and go to school "
Shafia did not, however, deny that he thought the girls’ death was somehow predetermined.
When asked by Lacelle if he believed what happened to his four family members was fate, Shafia answered "Yes."
"There was nothing that could be done to stop it?" Lacelle pressed. Shafia again said "Yes."
Lacelle also asked Shafia why was he was so enraged with his daughters.
"Because of what Zainab did with that Pakistani boy. I did not agree with her," he replied.
Zainab, 19, had run away from home to a women’s shelter and later briefly married her boyfriend. Her father did not approve and referred to the boyfriend frequently during his testimony as "not a good boy."
Lacelle then asked Shafia if he thought his daughters were responsible for their own deaths.
"Respected lady, that was an accident which I never can think what’s happened. I don’t know this – what’s happened," he said
"You believe their actions brought about their rightful death?" Lacelle asked.
"Yes," replied Shafia.
Shafia has denied most of the prosecutors' allegations and in testimony Thursday insisted his dead children had been "cruel."
Shafia is the first defence witness called in the trial.