NEW YORK - The daughter of a New York City taxi driver of Pakistani origin wept as she faced her father on Thursday in a US Federal courtroom where he is on trial for conspiring to murder her lover’s relatives in Pakistan because she had escaped an arranged marriage.
Amina Ajmal, 23, took the witness stand to testify against her father, Muhammad Ajmal Chaudhry, who faces life in prison if he’s convicted of orchestrating the so-called “honour killings” half a world away, according to a dispatch in The New York Daily News.
Chaudhry sobbed, too, at the sight of his daughter for the first time since attending her ill-fated arranged marriage in Pakistan in late 2012. Soon after, she fled the country with the help of her true love, Shujat Abbas, and the US State Department. In retaliation for the perceived dishonour, Chaudhry allegedly orchestrated the fatal shootings of Abbas father and sister.
The young woman broke down again when Assistant US Attorney Amanda Hector asked if she could identify her father in the courtroom for the jury. “Yes, he’s sitting there,” Amina cried.
Wearing a black jacket, black slacks and a white scarf around her neck, Amina told jurors she came to Brooklyn at the age of 9, attending Public School 192, all-girls Bishop Kearney High School and then Brooklyn College.
Her hand in marriage was promised to a young man in their rural village of Chiryawala, but Amina was smitten with Shujat who she had met at her sister's wedding in Pakistan.
She and Shujat secretly communicated by Facebook and emails. When her father and uncle learned of the budding relationship in 2009, she was barred from returning here.
“(My father) told me I’m too Americanised, I need to learn my culture,” she said.
Chaudhry flipped out over the discovery of a secret cell phone his daughter was using to call Shujat. “He said, ‘I don’t want to hear any more complaints about you. I will kill you if you do anything wrong,’” she testified.
The prosecutor showed a clip from Amina’s wedding video to the jury. The bride looked downcast — in fact nobody appeared to be smiling, not even the groom. “Can you describe what emotions you were feeling at your wedding?” Hector asked.
“I was sad,” Amina replied quietly. By contrast, the videos from Amina's brother's and sister's wedding celebrations showed men dancing, tossing money and firing a rifle in the air.