MONTREAL – Favouring her left forearm, on which spots of blood had soaked through the white bandage, the woman stood in the prisoner’s box looking crushed, accused of stabbing her own daughter in what police say was an “honour crime.”
After her lawyer, Tom Pentefountas, asked to delay the formal laying of charges so his client’s psychological fitness for trial could be determined, the woman’s husband stood up in the back of the court and shouted to the judge: “Please sir, my wife is innocent!”
He soon began to weep, completing the picture of a family utterly torn asunder by what transpired early Sunday morning.
The 19-year-old daughter remains in hospital with knife wounds to the head, shoulders and arms.
It’s believed that the daughter came home late, Pentefountas, a prominent name in the Montreal legal community, indicated to the court.
One source said she is believed to have returned home after 3 a.m. The assault happened just after 8, according to police.
Police based their theory that it was an honour crime on “what we saw at the scene of the crime,” said Olivier Lapointe, spokesperson for the Montreal Police Service, and especially on interviews with people inside the house and the victim herself.
It appeared related to the “behavior of the victim,” Lapointe said.
The woman, 38-year-old Johra Kaleki, faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
According to Amnesty International, there are more than 5,000 honour crimes in the world each year.
They are an “ancient practice” in a number of countries tied more so to culture than religion. Typically the woman is murdered by a member of her own family after tarnishing the family’s honour for ostensibly “immoral” behavior, often in relation to virginity or modesty.
The three other daughters in the family are currently in the custody of provincial youth protection authorities.
The family, which is Afghan in origin, moved to the neighbourhood in Dorval, near Montreal’s main airport, about five years ago, according to neighbour Emery Dora.
The family was pleasant, but “mostly kept to themselves,” Dora said. For instance, the father and the girls would play together but not with other children in on the street. The father, Ebrahim Ebrahimi, wouldn’t let a younger daughter play soccer with other girls in their backyard, Dora added.
In court on Monday afternoon Kaleki, dropped her head in despair as Pentefountas asked the judge for a mental assessment for his client.
“We think there was a temporary lapse of mental capacity,” Pentefountas told Justice Serge Boisvert.
Boisvert said Kaleki is normally a “balanced individual,” but that it’s alleged she “lost possession of her capacity on that particular morning.”
Crown Prosecutor Anne Gauvin said the police file only states that she was “hysterical,” but did not oppose the mental assessment, which the judge agreed to.
The court granted Gauvin’s request to bar communication between Kaleki and her children, but not her husband.
“He’s an important witness in the Crown’s case,” Gauvin said.
Lapointe said according to their information, the husband tried to intervene during the alleged altercation.
Last summer, after a car was found submerged in the Kingston canal, a Montreal-area couple of Afghan origin were accused along with their son of killing their three daughters and another relative in what was also believed to be an honour crime. Their trial will begin next year.
Kaleki will be back in court July 12.