The 28-month sentence handed to a Calgary dad who left his daughter in Iraq in violation of a custody order failed to send an adequate message to parents, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
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Crown lawyer Tom Spark told an Alberta Court of Appeal panel the punishment given to Ali Al Aazawi for depriving his ex-wife of their daughter was “demonstrably unfit.”
Spark said a harsher punishment would let potential offenders know that the interests of their children are paramount when dealing with their care.
“The sentence imposed in this case does not send that message,” the prosecutor said.
But Al Aazawi’s lawyer, Balfour Der, suggested the 28-month term imposed on his client by provincial court Judge Greg Stirling was, if anything, too harsh.
“In my respectful submission, the sentence ought to be left where is it . . . or, in fact, it should be lowered,” said Der.
The lawyer suggested the punishment he sought before Stirling, a one-year term that would be covered by Al Aazawi’s pre-trial custody, was appropriate.
“The time served in custody would’ve been sufficient,” Der told the appeal judges.
Judge asks father who left daughter in Iraq to help mend her shattered relationship with her Calgary mom
Calgary dad convicted of abducting his daughter and taking her to Iraq in contravention of a custody order
Al Aazawi was convicted by Stirling of abducting his daughter, Zahraa, in contravention of a custody order, when he took her to the Middle East in 2018 for a summer holiday for her 11th birthday, and detoured the trip from Egypt to his native Iraq.
Spark said Al Aazawi’s crime is all the more serious because his daughter, now approaching 15, remains in Iraq with members of Al Aazawi’s family.
During his trial, the girl testified — via video link — that she no longer wishes to return to Canada and has no interest in maintaining a relationship with her mother, Zainab Mahdi.
Spark said that alienation of her rightful custodial parent by the father was an aggravating factor Stirling failed to consider when he rejected the Crown’s call for an eight- to nine-year sentence.
“She has not been returned,” he said of the abducted daughter.
“This poor mother is still without her daughter.”
He said crimes involving using children as chattel should be met with severe punishment by the courts.
“They’re not just pawns of adults to be moved around.”
But Der said a major mitigating factor Stirling took into account, the fact Al Aazawi attempted to get his daughter to return to Canada despite her refusals, justified a lighter punishment.
“There have been all kinds of efforts by people to get her to return,” he said.
The appeal judges reserved their decision.