NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York cab driver was found guilty on Thursday of conspiring with relatives in Pakistan to commit “honor killings” of family members of a relative he believed helped his daughter escape back to the United States.
Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry, 61, was found guilty by a federal jury in Brooklyn on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, transmitting of threats to injure, and visa fraud.
Prosecutors said that for more than three years, Choudhry’s daughter, Amina Ajmal, was held against her will by relatives in Pakistan at her father’s direction, and forced into an arranged marriage to help a man get a U.S. visa.
With the help of a cousin and the U.S. State Department, Ajmal eventually escaped and returned to the United States in January 2013, prosecutors said.
Back in the United States, Ajmal did not tell her father her whereabouts, but spoke with him in recorded phone calls.
In those calls, prosecutors said Choudhry threatened to orchestrate the murder of her cousin if she did not return immediately to her family home in Brooklyn.
“I will not end this, until I find you,” he said on Feb. 21, 2013, according to court records. “I will kill their entire family.”
Four days after the call, the cousin’s father and sister were shot dead in Pakistan and a third relative was severely injured, prosecutors said.
In court filings, prosecutors said an eyewitness observed Choudhry’s brother “standing over the murdered victims, holding a gun, and desecrating the bodies.”
In a call that day between Ajmal and her father, Choudhry said he would “not leave a single member of their family alive.”
“My name is tainted everywhere in newspapers, on TV channels, that I am a man with no honor, my daughters are whores,” he said. “I have no place to show my face with dignity.”
Choudrhy was arrested later that day outside his home in Brooklyn. Neither his brother nor anyone else in Pakistan was charged, according to a spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who confirmed the verdict.
“Choudhry placed himself and his honor above the lives of anyone who dared to thwart his plans,” Lynch said in a statement.
Choudhry faces up to life in prison at sentencing. Frederick Sosinsky, his lawyer, said his client would appeal and seek to vacate his conviction.
“My client and his family are terribly saddened by today’s verdict,” he said.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Gunna Dickson