The father — and brains — behind a “dangerous plan” that ended with his two sons and their friend serving life sentences for a grisly murder, was himself handed a nine-year prison sentence Friday for his role in the 2004 killing of Windsor cabbie Thualfikar Alattiya.
On the eve of a trial expected to last months, with a witness list drawn from around the world, Daham Al Ghazzi pleaded guilty to manslaughter in what Superior Court Justice Robert Abbey called the “horrible” murder of Thualfikar Alattiya on Nov. 19, 2004.
He also pleaded guilty to attempted obstruction of justice for his attempts, while awaiting trial, to intimidate witnesses into changing their testimony.
Given two-for-one credit for his three years in pre-sentence custody, Al Ghazzi, 56, was ordered to serve another three years in penitentiary.
A local lawyer involved in the case said Al Ghazzi could be eligible for day parole by June and out on full parole before the end of next year.
Both of Al Ghazzi’s sons, Hassan and Mohamed — 17 and 19, respectively, at the time of the crime — and their friend Ali Al-Shammari, then 19, are serving life sentences for carrying out the taxi hijack and bloody murder of the father of three young children.
In addition to face wounds, cuts, abrasions, contusions and three broken ribs, assistant Crown attorney Renee Puskas told the court the victim’s throat “had been cut to the point of near decapitation.”
The murder was the culmination of a dispute that began after the late Mr. Alattiya demanded the return of $1,000 he’d collected for Al Ghazzi from local Shiite Muslims for a planned community centre from which the late Mr. Alattiya subsequently withdrew. According to a statement of facts agreed to by both the Crown and defence, Al Ghazzi also accused the late Mr. Alattiya of “spying” on him with the intent of exposing his family for welfare fraud.
Police later learned that Al Ghazzi had been warning members of the local Muslim community that the late Mr. Alattiya had better stop insulting his family, and he threatened to “send his boys to beat Mr. Alattiya,” according to the statement of facts. Ms. Puskas said it was a matter of ongoing discussion in the Al Ghazzi home in the month before the late Mr. Alattiya’s death.
The original plan was to have the three young men collect the cabbie, beat him up and then abandon him in a field. The plan went awry when the late Mr. Alattiya recognized and then appealed to his masked assailants.
Al-Shammari was sentenced last week to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for handing a knife to Hassan, helping hold down the late Mr. Allatiya and ordering the other teen to kill him.
Both of Al Ghazzi’s sons are also serving life sentences for the killing. Two other minors were convicted of being accessories after the fact.
Ms. Puskas read out a victim impact statement from the late Mr. Alattiya’s widow Rola Kamel, who informed the court via e-mail that she has left the country for a new start with her traumatized family.
Her husband was killed three years after the family came to Canada “with hopes and dreams,” she said, adding his death has left her “overwhelmed with grief.”
The late Mr. Alattiya’s son “views the world as a dangerous place” and trusts no one, she wrote.
Justice Abbey sentenced Mr. Al Ghazzi to seven years for manslaughter and added a consecutive two-year term on the obstruction charge.
The judge also imposed a lifetime weapons ban and ordered Mr. Al Ghazzi to submit a blood sample for a police DNA bank. He could face deportation back to Iraq upon his release, although one court observer said it is unlikely given the current security situation there.
“He’s happy to have this done,” Mr. Al Ghazzi’s lawyer Daniel Topp told reporters.
“It’s a sad conclusion to a tragic chain of events.”
Among nearly 3,000 pages of Arabic poetry, scribblings and drawings police seized in a search warrant executed at Daham Al Ghazzi’s Windsor Jail cell last spring were not-so-veiled threats issued to potential trial witnesses.
One such poem — “Fashion Party for the Tailor” — warned a witness known as “the tailor” to “imagine what the consequences would be” of his anticipated testimony.
Translated from Arabic, it warns the tailor “he is not the only one sought.”
It says that other family members, including infants, in his Iraqi homeland could face harm.
The tailor — a member of Windsor’s Shiite community — had nothing to gain if he “threw us in the hands of the infidels.”
He was also asked why he would “allow the Jews to win over us.”
Assistant Crown attorney Renee Puskas told a sentencing hearing Friday for Mr. Al Ghazzi, a self-described local Muslim community leader, that the “fashion party” was the tailor’s “final warning” before his family would be targeted.
The translation explains in broken English how “today Iraq is an open grounds to settle the differences and easily.”
One of the witnesses scheduled to testify told police that his “tribal family” back home advised him of the threats and “suggested he change his testimony,” said Ms. Puskas.
While in jail, Mr. Al Ghazzi approached another inmate with an offer of a car, $300 and a rent-reduced apartment if he forwarded threats to two key prosecution witnesses, telling them not to testify against “the sheik.”
The inmate, subsequently dubbed “Mr. X” became a police informant and helped gain information leading to an additional charge of obstructing justice.
Ms. Puskas referred to another lengthy jail poem entitled “Who is the One Who Did This?” that points to slain cabbie Thualfikar Alattiya — alluded to as the “gullible monkey” — as having “attempted to overthrow … the sheik.” In recorded conversation with “Mr. X”, Ms. Puskas said Mr. Al Ghazzi expressed his belief that the late Mr. Alattiya was telling the local Muslim community that Mr. Al Ghazzi was “not an imam,” or religious leader.
“Just about every investigative technique was used in this investigation,” said lead Windsor police investigator Staff Sgt. Norm Burkoski, adding 14 detectives were involved at its peak.
Mr. Al Ghazzi was the sixth person convicted in the brutal Nov. 19, 2004, killing of the late Mr. Alattiya, whose head was nearly severed in the rear of his taxi.
Superior Court Justice Robert Abbey said Mr. Al Ghazzi’s “persistent” attempts to threaten and intimidate witnesses while he sat in jail was an aggravating factor in his sentencing consideration, as was the “conscripting” of his sons in “the horrible events of November 2004.” He pointed out that members of the local Shiite community had offered to mediate the dispute, but that Mr. Al Ghazzi “chose the path of violence.”
“The Crown and the police are very pleased that everybody involved in Mr. Alattiya’s murder were held to account by the justice system,” said assistant Crown attorney George Spartinos.
…these posts forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a December 15, 2007 article by Doug Schmidt in The Windsor Star