Muslim gets jail time for threatening honour crime

From The Ottawa Citizen

Union boss jailed in ‘honour’ crime

Yusef Al Mezel gets one-year term for threatening daughter with violence

By Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa CitizenNovember 11, 2009

The head of Ottawa’s taxi union has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for threatening his daughter with an honour crime if she did not obey his wishes.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny said the sentence was the minimum penalty that Yusef Al Mezel could serve to address the “strong need” for denunciation and general deterrence after he implied that the actions of his 23-year-old daughter would be met with violence because she had shamed and dishonoured her family.

While the judge recognized Al Mezel was a respected community leader whose threats would not likely result in an honour killing, she said they do remain as threats of some possible form of violence in the name of honour that required significant condemnation.

“They invoke a seriously dangerous belief system that can and has led to violence against women,” said Ratushny.

“Mr. Al Mezel has threatened his daughter with serious violence and has caused her to fear for her safety in the name of honour. He has committed the crime of harassment against her in the name of honour,” she said.

“He has professed no adherence to any personal belief in there being any justification for honour killings, however he has committed another form of honour crime by deliberately and repeatedly invoking the concept of violence against her in the name of honour,” said Ratushny.

Al Mezel’s lawyer, Geraldine Castle-Trudel, said he is now considering an appeal of the sentence. As it stands now, Al Mezel is eligible to apply for parole after serving two months of his sentence.

“It’s a tragedy when you have a really decent person who has been a contributing member of the community … going to jail,” said Castle-Trudel, who had earlier asked the judge to consider a conditional sentence including house arrest. “This is not a career criminal. This is a man who lost his good judgment following issues with his daughter.”

Al Mezel, the 44-year-old president of the Canadian Autoworkers Local 1688, ran unsuccessfully for a city council seat in the Alta Vista ward in 2006.

In September of 2008, he pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, admitting he repeatedly called, wrote, followed and visited the residences of his daughter in July 2007 in an attempt to get her to return home after a violent incident in which he pushed her into a flight of stairs and threatened to break her legs and kill her before smashing her computer.

The incident occurred after an argument over Eman Al Mezel’s volunteer work. Eman Al Mezel said she moved out of the home after her father arranged for her to marry a 24-year-old Syrian man.

In one e-mail to his daughter, Al Mezel tells her 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.

In the message, he also wrote of “the Sharaf of the family,” which Eman Al Mezel later explained to police was the belief that she had shamed and dishonoured her family because she had run away from home and shed her hijab and Muslim beliefs.

Crown prosecutors had been asking for a jail sentence of between 18 and 24 months, arguing Al Mezel’s threat of an honour killing was designed to “control and dominate” his daughter.

Al Mezel was trying to deny his daughter “every basic freedom as to how she could live her life,” assistant Crown attorney James Cavanagh argued, the result of an “underlying notion of patriarchal dominance” based on a “perverted and archaic belief in family honour.”

aseymour@thecitizen.canwest.com

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