Calgary

Calgary father facing new international kidnapping charge while allegations of domestic violence surface

The Calgary father accused of abducting his daughter and hiding her with his family in Iraq has a history of physical abuse, according to his ex-wife, and will be facing a new, more serious charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Ali Al Aazawi charged with parental child abduction, lawyers say charge of international kidnapping to be laid

Calgary police believe 12-year-old Zahraa Al Aazawi is in Iraq. Her father is accused of abducting her and leaving her with his family. (Calgary Police Service)

The Calgary father accused of abducting his daughter and hiding her with his family in Iraq has a history of physical abuse, according to his ex-wife, and will be facing a new, more serious charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Ali Al Aazawi, 38, is charged with parental child abduction. Lawyers involved say a charge of international kidnapping will be laid in the next day or so.

CBC News has obtained court documents showing an emergency protection order against Al Aazawi was granted after his ex-wife, Zanaib Mahdi, alleged physical and psychological abuse in 2012.

Al Aazawi appeared in Calgary court briefly on Thursday so defence lawyer Tonii Roulston and prosecutor Ryan Persad could schedule a bail hearing for next week. Persad says he will oppose Al Aazawi's release.

The accused appeared on closed-circuit television in a blue Calgary Remand Centre-issued jumpsuit and spoke through an Arabic interpreter.

In June 2018, Al Aazawi brought his 11-year-old daughter, Zahraa Al Aazawi, to Egypt, according to police. There was an agreement in place between the girl's parents that the father would return to Calgary with her on Sept. 5, 2018.

He never returned with the girl.

Ten months after he left the country, Al Aazawi returned to Canada without his daughter, flying to Toronto alone on April 4.

He was arrested at the airport and escorted by police on a flight back to Calgary.

Abuse included broken bones: wife

Mahdi first reported her husband to police about seven years ago when she sought an emergency protection order (EPO), which is essentially a restraining order.

According to a transcript of the court hearing, which took place on July 16, 2012, Mahdi told a police officer her husband had a history of abuse. She alleged he had broken her nose and finger, burned her shoulder with a searing-hot knife he pressed onto her skin, and had once given her a black eye.

"I wanted to give him another chance because divorce is hard," she wrote in her affidavit, filed as part of the EPO hearing.

Earlier that day, Mahdi called 911 after she was hit in the head with a broom handle by her mother-in-law, who had been living with the family, she told police.

'My husband is going to kill me'

The responding officer said when he first arrived, Mahdi kept repeating "my husband is going to kill me, my husband is going to kill me."

The couple had been arguing in recent weeks about a planned trip to Iraq that Mahdi did not want to take. Part of her concern was the plan for Al Aazawi's mother to take care of the couple's daughter. Mahdi said she did not trust her mother-in-law.

Zainab said she did not want to go but told police at the time that her husband would kill her or "make something bad happen" if she did not travel with him.

That same month, according to his own affidavit, Al Aazawi sent his mother back to Iraq because he wanted to reconcile with his wife and daughter.

Al Aazawi denied abuse

Al Aazawi denied all of the physical abuse and said the majority of the conflict in the family home was between his wife and mother.

"I love my wife and daughter more than anything in life and will do anything for them. I believe my wife and daughter love me, too, and want to reconcile and live with me again," he wrote in his affidavit.

The judge granted the EPO with the plan for Mahdi to move in to an emergency shelter with her daughter. The judge offered to consider ordering Al Aazawi out of the family home but Mahdi said she did not want him to know where she was living.

The couple fled as refugees to Canada in 2008 after having been married in Iraq two years earlier. As of 2012, they were permanent residents of Canada with Al Aazawi working as a trucker.

The EPO was granted in July 2012 and revoked four months later.

On Wednesday, Calgary police investigators asked the public, particularly members of Calgary's Iraqi community, to come forward with any information which might help bring the girl home to her mother.

Police say the father has not been cooperative but they do not believe the girl's safety is at risk.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts can call police non-emergency at 403-266-1234, or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.