WINDSOR, Ont. -- An Iraqi-Canadian was acquitted of bigamy Tuesday by a Windsor judge who said that while he had no doubt the man has two wives, it could not be proven the man left the country "with intent" to take a second partner.
The incident began on Valentine's Day in 2004 when Sahib Abid Ali Al Jibouri went before a county judge in Jefferson, Ohio, and married Katharine White. But he already had a wife and baby back home in Toronto.
Mr. Al Jibouri, 46, now lives in Windsor.
After hearing testimony from Mr. Al Jibouri's first wife and that of a Canadian immigration officer who discovered the Ohio marriage, Ontario court Justice Guy DeMarco said he didn't doubt Mr. Al Jibouri had two wives.
Yet he acquitted because of what Judge DeMarco called a "stringent requirement" under Canada's bigamy law in which the Crown has to prove the man had left the country with "the intent" to take a second wife.
"The intent requirement is very stringent," the judge said, commenting on the case after giving his judgment. In 35 years since being called to the bar, it was Judge DeMarco's first involvement with a bigamy case.
Mr. Al Jibouri's first wife, Nagham Muhammed, testified she married the Baghdad-born man on Dec. 31, 2002, while the couple was living in Toronto. Mr. Al Jibouri is a Canadian citizen and was sponsoring Muhammed in her claim for refugee status, the woman testified through an Arabic interpreter.
In 2006, the couple met with immigration officer Judith Rugless. Ms. Rugless testified that in reviewing the sponsorship file, she ran a computer check on Mr. Al Jibouri which showed he was also married in Ohio.
She brought a copy of the Ohio marriage certificate to court Tuesday.
Ms. Muhammed said it was the immigration officer who broke the news to her that her husband had taken a second wife. "I cried," Ms. Muhammed said.
Ms. Rugless testified Mr. Al Jibouri admitted to being a bigamist.
"He indicated he only married her [Ms. Muhammed] because she was pregnant by him at that time and he wanted the child to have his name ... I told him it was illegal in Canada for him to be married more than one time."
Mr. Al Jibouri and Ms. Muhammed continue to live together in Windsor with their three children. They attended court together, Mr. Al Jibouri pushing a stroller carrying the couple's infant while Ms. Muhammed guided their two young sons from the courthouse. As Ms. Muhammed testified, the judge assigned a court constable to babysit the children in the hallway.
Defence lawyer Frank Miller said Mr. Al Jibouri comes from a culture where polygamy is accepted, even encouraged in some cases. "He's just an average working guy from Iraq."
Mr. Al Jibouri is no longer involved with the second wife in Ohio, Mr. Miller said, refusing to comment on Mr. Al Jibouri's purpose in marrying the American woman. Mr. Miller said the case of Bountiful, a polygamist community in British Columbia, shows it is difficult in Canada to prosecute bigamy cases. "It's a religion-based crime," said Mr. Miller.
He said the courts would struggle with what to do with a Muslim man who comes to Canada after marrying multiple wives in his home country. It's common in Canadian society for men to have children with multiple women. "What is the real societal benefit to have laws against multiple marriage?" Mr. Miller said.
Bigamous marriage, he said, "shows some degree of commitment. At least it's better than a guy running around and impregnating a bunch of women."
Mr. Miller said that while his client could be prosecuted for bigamy in Ohio, authorities there are not pursuing charges.
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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