New York City cab driver convicted of arranging honour killings in Pakistan

In this April 2, 102 file photo, a prototype of the Nissan NV 200 New York City taxi is shown in New York. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

TOM HAYS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — A New York City taxi driver was convicted Thursday of arranging two killings in Pakistan because he was dismayed that his daughter had left an arranged marriage.

Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry was so humiliated that he arranged the honour killings of two relatives of a man who had helped her flee, prosecutors in federal court in Brooklyn had alleged. Jurors deliberated about an hour before delivering the verdict in a murder conspiracy trial that featured emotional testimony by the daughter.

In recorded phone calls played for the jury, Choudhry explained to his daughter that in their culture, sons were free to come and go, but “when a daughter runs away, parents are demeaned forever.” He warned in another recording, “If you don’t come back, there is only death.”

The defence claimed that Choudhry, who was in Brooklyn at the time of the killings in Pakistan, had no hand in them. They say government agents coached the daughter on how to manipulate her father into making empty threats.

The daughter, Amina Ajmal, wept when she first took the stand as the government’s star witness. She testified that after growing up in Brooklyn, her father tricked her into visiting Pakistan so the family could force her to marry one of her cousins there.

“He told me I was too Americanized, and I needed to learn my culture,” she testified.

Shortly after wedding in a traditional ceremony in 2012, Ajmal asked a man she described as her true love to help her flee. She slipped away and flew to the United States early last year, where she went into hiding but stayed in phone contact with her father.

When Choudhry began threatening to track down the man and kill him unless she returned home and restored the family’s honour, she agreed to let federal agents record their phone calls.

Shortly after Ajmal learned that the victims had been gunned down in Pakistan, she called her father and asked, “Have you done this?”

He responded that another person “killed this time and made me part of it.” But he also repeated the threat that he would “not leave a single member of their family alive” if she didn’t return home.

Choudhry faces up to life in prison when sentenced.

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13:54ET 03-07-14

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