From the Ottawa Citizen
Crown wants taxi union boss jailed for ‘honour crime’
That’s ‘not my world,’ man insists, despite threats to daughter
OTTAWA — Crown prosecutors are seeking to send the head of Ottawa’s taxi union to jail for up to two years, alleging that a campaign of threatening and intimidating behaviour directed toward his daughter after she turned her back on the family’s Muslim beliefs was an honour crime.
Yusef Al Mezel’s threat of an honour killing was designed to “control and dominate” his then-23-year-old daughter, Eman Al Mezel, by suggesting she had brought shame upon her family that would be met with violent consequences, assistant Crown attorney James Cavanagh argued during a sentencing hearing Thursday.
Al Mezel, who pleaded guilty to criminal harassment last September, was trying to deny his daughter “every basic freedom as to how she could live her life,” Cavanagh said, the result of an “underlying notion of patriarchal dominance” based on a “perverted and archaic belief in family honour.”
“When she wouldn’t bend to his will … he raised the spectre of violence in the name of honour to scare her into complying with his wishes,” said Cavanagh, who urged Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny to sentence the 44-year-old president of the Canadian Autoworkers Local 1688 to 18 to 24 months behind bars.
Al Mezel admitted he repeatedly called, wrote, followed and visited the residences of Eman Al Mezel in July 2007 in an attempt to get his daughter to return home after a violent incident where he pushed her into a flight of stairs and threatened to break her legs and kill her before smashing her computer.
Addressing the court, Al Mezel said hearing the prosecutor’s allegations that he committed an honour crime was like “listening to evil from another world.”
“It is not my world,” Al Mezel told the judge, adding that the Crown’s accusations that he would commit such an act were being cast with a “broad brush” and left him and his reputation tainted with “very ugly paint.”
“What I hear today is something I never lived in, something I never believed in,” he said.
His lawyer, Geraldine Castle-Trudel, said the notion of honour crimes “makes headlines,” but argued the situation in Al Mezel’s case is “not as dramatic” as the Crown would have the court believe.
“What happened was a confrontation over what was appropriate and what was inappropriate,” said Castle-Trudel, arguing 12 months probation was a suitable sentence for a man with no criminal record who accepted responsibility for his actions.
“What you have is a loving and caring father who thought his daughter was on the wrong path,” she said.
Castle-Trudel argued e-mails sent by Al Mezel to his daughter were “statements of an overwrought, upset father.”
In a synopsis of the case presented following his guilty plea, portions of seven e-mails from Al Mezel to his daughter were read into the record last September.
In one of the e-mails, Al Mezel tells his daughter, who was living with a male friend and his family, that they could no longer “hide the problem” from her uncles and cousins and that he could not guarantee the “safety of anyone” if she didn’t return home.
“Eman, you know when everyone hear about, they will react crazy, and no one will care about police or other thing, you know your family,” read the e-mail.
“Please Eman, help to solve it without harm to any one. You should care about the family you live with, you don’t want your uncles and cousins at the door of the apartment, please we don’t need more problems.”
In the message, he wrote of “the Sharaf of the family,” which Eman Al Mezel later explained to police was the belief that because she had run away from home and shed her hijab and Muslim beliefs, she had “shamed and dishonoured her family.” At the time, her father was also arranging to have her married to a Syrian man she didn’t want to marry.
The only way to restore the family’s honour, according to Eman Al Mezel, would have been to kill her, an act usually carried out by the father or uncles.
Court heard Eman Al Mezel and the family she had been staying with were moved out of Ottawa by police over concerns for their safety and have never returned.
Al Mezel insisted he was concerned about a daughter he loves and “absolutely” didn’t mean what he wrote.
However, Cavanagh argued the e-mails couldn’t have a clearer message.
“When he shares this with other men in the family, there will be harmful, violent consequences,” said Cavanagh.
Al Mezel is expected to be sentenced Nov. 10.