Earlier killing detailed in Houston ‘honor killings’ death penalty case
The sister of a man killed in 1999 testified Wednesday that long before two highly publicized “honor killings” shocked the Houston area, the man convicted of both those 2012 slayings showed up at her home brandishing a gun and threatened to kill her brother.
Alya Alidam testified in the punishment phase of the “honor killings” capital murder trial that her brother married a 17-year-old daughter of Jordanian immigrant Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, who was convicted by a Harris County jury last week of two separate “honor killings” that took place 11 months apart in 2012. Alidam said Irsan came to her home in 1999 desperate to find his daughter, and threatened to kill the whole family because her brother had eloped with the young girl.
Soon after that visit, Irsan fatally shot her brother, 29-year-old Amjad Alidam with a 12-gauge shotgun after invivting him to their home in east Montgomery County. Earlier, a neighbor recounted how Irsan told him he “got away with murder” by planting a gun on Alidam’s body, and then telling investigators his new son-in-law had been abusing his daughter and had threatened harm his family.
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But Alidam’s sister, along with three of the dead man’s friends, testified that Alidam was a friendly, peaceful man. The sister told the jury how before the killing that Irsan, who had also befriended her brother, became furious and frantic when he learned his daughter had left home to get married. Irsan urged Alidam to get into his car so she could help him find out where the couple had gone, she recalled.
“He kidnapped my daughter. I will kill him,” she recalled Irsan saying. “I will kill you and will kill everyone if my daughter doesn’t come back to me.”
“Ali threatened to kill you?” Anna Louise Emmons, one of the three pro tem prosecutors on the case asked. “Yes.”
“Threatened to kill your family?” “Yes.”
Alya Alidam testified that Irsan forced her to drive “like crazy” with him around Houston with him for an hour and wait in the car while he broke into her brother’s home and yanked out an answering machine. He then proceeded to call every number he recovered from caller ID.
Two of the homicide victim’s friends told the jury that Irsan opposed the marriage despite both men being Muslims but of different denominations, as the family of Amjad Alidam is Shia while the Irsans are Sunni.
The Montgomery County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute the fatal shooting.
But the lead detective on the case testified that it had been her first time leading an investigation of a homicide, and many of the conditions were less than ideal. She noted she had to interview the victim’s new wife on the phone because the family had sent her to Jordan.
Prosecutors contend that Irsan , whom they characterized as a “radical extremist Muslim,” should be given the death penalty for coordinating the 2012 fatal shootings of his daughter Nesreen’s 28-year-old husband, Coty Beavers, and Iranian activist and medical researcher Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30.
Nasreen Irsan testified that she ran away from the family compound in Montgomery County, infuriating her father who began to stalk her with the help of other family members.
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Witnesses in the five-week trial have told jurors that Irsan orchestrated the slayings because he was outraged about Nasreen Irsan’s conversion to Christianity. A jury will decide if Irsan will receive the death penalty or life without parole.
The jury found Irsan guilty last week of killing Beavers after sneaking into the couple’s unlocked northwest Harris County apartment in November 2012. They also convicted him for his role in the January 2012 slaying of Nesreen Irsan’s close friend, Bagherzadeh, outside her parents home in the Galleria area.
Nesreen Irsan previously told the jury that Irsan had bragged about killing her older sister’s husband in the 1999 “honor killing,” and then covered his tracks to make it look like the shooting was in self defense.
Irsan’s defense team is expected to put on mitigating evidence, including witnesses from Jordan who will talk about Irsan’s upbringing in the coming weeks.