Four women broke into another woman's home, stripped her of her clothes, hit her, removed her pubic hair and then posted videos of the attack on Facebook, all as revenge over an alleged relationship between the victim and a man, a Crown lawyer told an Ottawa court Thursday.
Eunice Ilunga, 43, Sandrine Tomba-Kalema, 37, Safi Mahinja, 27 and Nina Janina Raul, 35 — face charges of unlawful confinement, sexual assault and taking intimate images of someone without their consent.
Ilunga, Tomba-Kalema and Mahinja each face additional charges of break and enter, kidnapping with intent to confine, assault, assault with a weapon and sexual assault with a weapon.
All four have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been out of custody since posting bail as they awaited trial.
The four accused and the victim, who was 21 at the time of the assault and who cannot be named because of a publication ban to protect her identity, belong to Ottawa's tight-knit Congolese community, which was shaken by the incident when the videos first came to light two years ago.
The trial by judge alone in Ontario Superior Court began Thursday and is taking place mostly in French, with translation.
Videos 'hard to watch'
The attack on July 3, 2015, was over the victim's relationship with a man who was also in a relationship with Ilunga, Assistant Crown Attorney Louise Tansey said in the Crown's opening statements.
The videos of the attack are "hard to watch," Tansey said: the young woman is either naked or nearly naked as Ilunga, Tomba-Kalema and Mahinja verbally and physically assault her.
In one video, her attackers applied hair removal cream to the woman's pelvic area and then wiped it away, removing her pubic hair, Tansey said. In another, her attackers yell at the woman in Lingala, a Bantu language spoken in Congo, while someone hits her.
The Crown's first witness, Trésor Kisisa, a 39-year-old born in Congo who studied criminology, said a female friend from the community who was "shocked" by the videos sent them to him. He said he watched the first two videos, and then made some calls and learned the young woman was safe.
He then accompanied the victim to the police station to report the attack.
Kisisa then answered questions as the videos were played in court for him, the judge and the accused.
He told court he recognized the voices of Ilunga, Raul and Tomba-Kalema when he listened to the videos on his phone. He said it is Ilunga who he hears describing how she is going to remove the victim's hair, and in another video it is Ilunga who tells the victim to stay away from the man she is dating, Kisisa told the court.
Accused sang of assault
In another video played in court, Ilunga is singing a song in a car. Kisisa told court Ilunga was singing in Lingala and changed the lyrics to make the song about revenge, singing, "I have something against you."
Kisisa said the new lyrics also say, "You're provoking Ilunga, Tomba-Kalema and Mahinja and you're going to see," and also, "Be careful Chou Chou [Ilunga's nickname] hits hard, little girl."
Kisisa said other improvised lyrics included, "Young people today are rude — they take other people's men," and said Ilunga also sang about removing a woman's pubic hair.
The trial resumes Friday.