KINGSTON, Ont. — Jurors at the Shafia murder trial, for the second straight day, heard claims Rona Amir Mohammad, one of four people found dead in a sunken car, was abused physically and emotionally by her husband and his second wife.
"She did say that he beat her up, the husband beat her up ... he was pulling her hair," Fahima Vorgetts testified Tuesday morning, recounting what she said she was told by Rona during phone calls over the span of a year.
Vorgetts, a volunteer with Women for Afghan Women, a human rights organization, said she began taking calls from Rona in the spring of 2008, after a referral through Vorgetts' aunt.
"She said that her husband and her husband's wife were abusive towards her and she needs help, what to do, where to go," testified Vorgetts, a native of Afghanistan who lives in Virginia in the United States. "She did not have any information, knowledge about what to do in this country."
Rona, along with Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, were found dead in a submerged car in a canal in Kingston, Ont., on June 30, 2009.
Three weeks later, Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, were arrested and each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty.
Rona was Shafia's first wife, whom he married in his native Afghanistan, before the family moved to Canada in 2007.
Vorgetts testified Rona would sneak out of the Shafia house in the evenings and call her secretly from a payphone, pouring out her story of abuse and humiliation.
"She said that her husband's wife would mock her, put her down in front of the family's guests," she testified. She said that during the phone calls, Rona would cry almost constantly. She said she was told that Rona was kicked by Shafia.
Vorgetts said she urged her to leave the house, go to a shelter, or a church or to police, but Rona told her she was afraid to leave.
"She said if she leaves, her husband will kill her," she testified.
Vorgetts said she was told the family held all of Rona's identity documents, including her passport, so Rona believed she could not flee to another country, where she had relatives.
During questioning by defence lawyers, Vorgetts said she had no specifics about any possible injuries Rona may have received from the abuse she claimed to have suffered.
Vorgetts said her last phone contact with Rona was in April 2009.
Prosecutors allege the victims were slain in an honour killing, planned by Mohammad Shafia because he believed his daughters had shamed him and because Rona was a source of friction with his second wife.
- National Post
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