A Saudi Arabian man who tried to choke his daughter told a St. John’s judge that such actions are “an acceptable form of discipline” in his country.
But Khalaf Alshaek insisted he meant no harm to the woman. Instead, he was trying to prevent her from making a mistake and shaming the family by marrying a man without their consent.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her,” the 56-year-old said during his sentencing hearing at provincial court.
“I did it out of love. My heart was in my hands.”
The 56-year-old — who has lived in St. John’s for the past three years — spoke with the help of a translator.
He was arrested Thursday night after a violent outburst, sparked when his daughter told him she wanted to marry a man from this province.
It began at Ches’s Fish ’n’ Chips restaurant on Freshwater Road in St. John’s, where Alshaek, his daughter and the man went together.
When the woman asked her father for approval to marry the man, Alshaek became angry and threatened them before leaving.
What Alshaek didn’t know was that his daughter and the man had secretly wed three days before. According to the facts of the case, read in court, the woman was too fearful of her father to admit they were married.
Shortly after that incident at Ches’s, the family went to a house on Lemarchant Road, where they had been staying. Once there, Alshaek attacked his daughter three times, wrapping his hands around her neck. Alshaek believed his daughter, who had always been quiet and shy, was being disobedient.
The woman, who was left with marks on her neck, feared her father would kill her. She managed to text her husband to call police, who took her father into custody.
Crown prosecutor Danny Murphy recommended a three-month jail term for Alshaek, with a year’s probation. Murphy noted that Alshaek would then be deported and would have trouble getting back into the country with a conviction.
Defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan explained to the judge that Alshaek came to St. John’s — with his wife and some of his 10 children — to be a chaperone for his daughter, who is attending Memorial University on a scholarship.
She said what his daughter did was considered disrespectful in his country and that his actions were meant as a preventative measure.
“There are lots of cultural nuances in this case that we’re not used to,” she pointed out.
She said Alshaek has the support of the Saudi Arabian government and that she’s been in contact with the government’s legal counsel, which is willing to fly the family back to their home country.
“They’ve offered to give me plane tickets to bring to court to show you their sincerity,” Sullivan said.
She said to ease the court’s concern about the risk of assaulting the woman again, it would be best to sentence Alshaek to time served and have him leave Canada immediately.
“He won’t have an opportunity to see her,” she said.
Alshaek had his family members in court for proceedings. He apologized for what he did, apologized to the Canadian government, to the judge and thanked the lawyers.
He said if he had known his daughter was already married, he would not have reacted the way he did. His actions were an attempt to try and prevent her from making a mistake, he said.
He said in Saudi Arabia, it’s the parents’ responsibility to discipline their children if they see them doing anything inappropriate.
“It’s the duty of a parent,” Alshaek said, through the translator.
Alshaek said he gave up his job as a teacher in Saudi Arabia to come to Canada and help his daughter get a good education.
He broke down crying when he spoke of his love for his daughter.
“I did this out of love for her,” he said.
Judge Jim Walsh reserved his decision on sentencing until today, but told Sullivan that at that time, he wanted her to have proof that Alshaek would be leaving Canada.
He told her to have a plane ticket in court today, along with someone there to personally escort Alshaek back to Saudi Arabia.