Monday, November 14, 2011

Defence in "Honour Crimes" Trial Tries--and Fails--to Make RCMP Interogator Look Bad

The lawyer for Tooba Yahya, on trial with her husband and son for the "honour killings" of three of her daughters and her husband's first wife, is accusing the RCMP officer who interrogated her of being culturally insensitive and inappropriately touchy-feely. It's all part of a defence strategy which hinges on the argument that "this was a crime driven by shame and fury over the victims’ un-Afghan, un-Islamic behaviour." (Note: the emphases are from the original):
...It was [RCMP Inspector] Mehdizadeh who elicited from Tooba an admission that put all three defendants at the Kingston Mills locks on the night the family’s Nissan went into the Rideau Canal with the victims inside — pushed into the water, the Crown maintains.

In the interview room, Tooba is clearly distraught at being separated from her three younger kids, taken into care by child protection authorities just before the arrests.

Her lawyer, David Crowe, cross-examining Mehdizadeh this week, asked: “Would you be aware of the culture — the effect that would have on her of children being removed?’’

The officer responds with the obvious: “That would be the likely effect on any mother.’’
Though Mehdizadeh had continually invoked religious commandments on Tooba during the interrogation, appealing to her as “a good Muslim woman’’ to tell the truth about what happened, he pushes back against the suggestion that cultural niceties should have been followed.

“You weren’t concerned about being alone in the room with Tooba, despite your knowledge of Middle Eastern customs?’’ Crowe inquires.

Mehdizadeh: “You can’t just go by customs. It’s the murder of four people we’re investigating.” A chaperoning male might indeed have been ideal. “But we don’t live in a perfect world.’’

Crowe perseveres, noting the female officer, also a Farsi-speaker, who exits shortly after Mehdizadeh enters.

“Wouldn’t it have been more respectful to have another woman in the room?’’ Crowe wonders.

“I was actually hoping for her to leave,’’ Mehdizadeh counters. “But I wasn’t going to tell her to leave because that would not be polite. It’s not about customs. It’s about doing my job. It’s an interrogation. Three’s a crowd.’’

Crowe brings up the fearfulness that many civilians in Middle Eastern countries harbour towards law enforcement. “Often interrogation in those countries involve torture?’’  
What’s being implied is that Tooba was afraid of Mehdizadeh, though her demeanour in the video indicates no such thing.

“There may be (torture),’’ Mehdizadeh concedes. “I’ve never been exposed to that.’’
Undaunted, Crowe beams in on the fact Mehdizadeh had changed his position several times during the interview, drawing his chair quite close to Tooba, even taking hold of her hand.

“You were not at all concerned she might feel your presence, a strange male, as being fairly intimidating?’’

Mehdizadeh: “I was 100 per cent sure she was not intimidated by me.’’

“Do you agree with me you touched her in the shoulder a couple of times? At one point you took her hand,’’ says Crowe, inquiring if anyone had ever advised the officer he “shouldn’t touch females.’’

Mehdizadeh: “These things are never rehearsed. You take what’s presented and make the best of it.’’

Crowe pounces. “You did more than take what was presented. Is that accepted?’’
The officer is clearly growing weary with this line of inquisition.

“It may not be accepted but we are in Canada. I’m not afraid to hold other men’s hands either.’’

Patrick McCann, lawyer for Shafia, then picks up the theme, probing Mehdizadeh — as de facto authority on all things Muslim, though he’s testifying as a cop and interrogation specialist — about the “very patriarchal’’ nature of most Middle Eastern families, where “adherence to practices’’ is generally the responsibility of the head of the family.

“You’ve heard the expression,’’ McCann asks, “the man is the head of the house?’’

Mehdizadeh grins. “In my house it certainly doesn’t work.’’
Advantage: Mehdizadeh.

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