Mother, uncle threatened daughter's secret husband with death: Crown
Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 06:00 pm
VANCOUVER - There is not enough evidence to send the mother of a murdered British Columbia woman to India to face trial in what police believe was a so-called "honour" killing, says her lawyer.
Almost 14 years after 25-year-old Jaswinder "Jassi" Sidhu was found stabbed to death in Punjab, her mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, are in a Vancouver courtroom facing extradition for conspiracy and murder charges.
But David Crossin said Tuesday that the evidence presented by the Crown is not enough to extradite.
"The evidence concerning Ms. Sidhu's conduct in relation to Jassi... cannot be characterized as a 'systematic campaign of terror,'" Crossin said, quoting the Crown.
The Crown didn't prove Sidhu had any motive for ordering the murder of her daughter, despite her actions after she found out Jassi had secretly married a poor rickshaw driver instead of the wealthy, older man chosen by her family, he told the court.
"At most it is evidence that is capable of demonstrating that Ms. Sidhu was disappointed and generally upset about Jassi's marriage," Crossin told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Fitch, who must decide whether the pair will be sent to India.
"A properly instructed jury acting reasonably could not, in our submission, on the basis of these incidences of transient disappointment and frustration ... logically infer that Ms. Sidhu aided, abetted or counselled Jassi's murder."
Court has heard that Jassi Sidhu's family learned of her clandestine union in February 2000. In the months that followed, friends and coworkers testified that she was under watch around the clock, and feared for her life.
Her mother slapped her and took part in pressuring Jassi to sign documents that would have annulled the marriage. She also froze the account her daughter held jointly with her, cutting off her funds.
But it doesn't mean Sidhu was part of any conspiracy, Crossin said.
Undeterred, Jassi Sidhu went to India in May 2000 with the intention of bringing her husband, Sukhwinder "Mithu" Sidhu, home to Canada. The couple was attacked on June 8, 2000. He survived, but her body was found several days later.
Deborah Strachan, the lawyer for the federal Attorney General, said when threats failed in Canada, Jassi's mother and uncle went to India, where they threatened the young woman's lower-caste husband and his family with death.
"The evidence from the record of the case is that Mr. Badesha and Ms. Sidhu threatened Mithu on multiple occasions, telling him he would be killed because Jassi had married him against their wishes," Strachan said in her final arguments.
"They told him they were willing to spend any amount of money to have him killed. Ms. Sidhu told Mithu that she would make him disappear and that she would eliminate his family.
"That was not an empty threat because then there is evidence that Mr. Badesha and Ms. Sidhu threatened Mithu's mother ... and on separate occasions threatened to kill Mithu and the rest of her children."
Crossin said the evidence against Sidhu is "significantly different" than the evidence against Badesha, but Strachan said the evidence shows two people who acted as a team in conspiring to kill Jassi Sidhu.
"I concede there is some evidence that Jassi loved her mother and that her mother loved her," she told the judge.
"But there is also powerful evidence, including the comment made by Ms. Sidhu to Jassi that she wished she had aborted her, and that was in the period after the discovery of the secret marriage."
Sidhu could be heard sobbing from the jail cell where she appeared via video link.
In his final argument, Michael Klein, Badesha's lawyer, questioned the identification of the uncle in the case.
"To take a person from one jurisdiction to another, we probably want some measure of certainty before we do that," Klein told the judge.
The passage of time and intense media coverage have tainted witnesses, he said. That includes testimony from an RCMP officer and a former tenant of Badesha's.