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‘A very critical clash of cultures’: Plea deal over honour killing threats saves Syrian couple from deportation

national post 2018-05-17 04:02:27

A Syrian refugee couple who threatened their adult daughter with an honour killing for dating a Canadian man have made a plea deal with New Brunswick prosecutors that will save them from possible deportation back to their war-ravaged homeland.

Ahmad Ayoub, 52, and his wife Faten, 48, were freed this week after 72 days in jail, after pleading guilty to uttering threats as a summary conviction offence, and being sentenced to time served.

If they had been convicted of the more serious indictable offence of uttering threats, for which a trial was scheduled in the summer, they would have faced a sentence in the range of six months to a year, up to a maximum of two years.

More importantly, they would have faced the possibility of also being sent back to Syria, from which they escaped through Jordan, eventually settling in Fredericton in 2016, sponsored by the federal government.

“That’s the main thing that we gained,” said David Lutz, Ahmad’s lawyer. “Nobody who is a refugee wants to be convicted of any indictable offence, because it’s going to bring them under the purview of deportation.”

I came to the conclusion that this is a manner of speech that they never really intend to carry any of this out

Lutz called the case a “very critical clash of cultures” that has sent a clear message to the Syrian community in Canada that even empty threats are taken seriously by the police and courts.

“Their words were taken literally instead of figuratively,” Lutz said. “In my interaction with the entire family, I came to the conclusion that this is a manner of speech that they never really intend to carry any of this out, but they do it so to say, ‘You should mind me, because this is what I think’.”

The Ayoubs have one adult child who remains in Jordan, and five others, one as young as 10, in Fredericton. Both have post-secondary education. Ahmad has worked in business, and Faten as a cook, but neither are employed yet in Canada.

No one answered the phone at their home on Wednesday. George Kalinowski, Faten Ayoub’s lawyer, declined to comment.

The threats were made against their daughter Bayan, 25. They were spoken in Arabic, once face to face, otherwise on the phone, and they only came to light when Bayan told her Canadian boyfriend, who encouraged her to go to police. She soon recanted, however, and was described in court by prosecutor Claude Haché as a reluctant participant in the prosecution.

“Throughout the time from which her parents were arrested and detained, (Bayan) was recanting and saying ‘All this is my fault.’ But of course, just like in domestic assaults, the police — and rightly so — don’t take the recanting seriously,” Lutz said.

Or, if they take it seriously, they see it as a symptom of the same problem, he added.

Just like in domestic assaults, the police — and rightly so — don’t take the recanting seriously

Bayan went to police in February. This prompted the threat by her mother, who urged her to tell police she lied, otherwise she would be killed. This threat was made on a phone call that Bayan recorded.

According to reporting by Don MacPherson of The Fredericton Daily Gleaner, who was in court for the sentencing, the first threat was made in April 2016, soon after the family arrived in Canada. Ahmad was angry that his daughter won an iPad in a contest, and threatened to poison her food. He also said he wanted to limit her contact with local men.

The second threat came last summer, when Bayan’s parents learned she was communicating with a Canadian man on social media, and her father said that “for his own dignity, it would be better to slaughter her,” the prosecutor said.

A third threat from Ahmad was prompted by her use of a smartphone, and his concern she was communicating with people she met at a work placement at a food bank.

Lutz said the more serious indictable offence of uttering threats is generally used in cases where there is evidence the offender had the ability or means to do it. In this case, he said their words were hyperbolic, exaggerated and non-literal.

He said the Ayoubs’ threats were “careless, bordering on reckless, and they have learned from this experience that his kind of language may be acceptable in Syria and Afghanistan, but now they know, better than most, that it’s not acceptable in Canada. And the entire Syrian community in New Brunswick knows it too.”

MacPherson’s report noted that the parents embraced their daughter outside court, and Ahmad shook her boyfriend’s hand. They will be on probation for a year.

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