Court Documents Detail a Deadly Family Feud From Brooklyn to Pakistan
By MOSI SECRET
She fled her husband and her family, sneaking out of her home in Pakistan to take sanctuary in the American Embassy, which then whisked her to a secret hide-out in the United States.
The thrilling escape seemed to end the harrowing ordeal of Amina Ajmal, an American citizen who said she had been held captive for years by her own relatives in Pakistan and forced to marry a man there who only wanted an American visa. But then, after law enforcement encouraged her to call her father from her hide-out, the episode took an even darker turn.
“I will not end this until I find you,” Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry, a Brooklyn taxi driver, told his daughter on the phone in February, according to a transcript of the recorded call. “I will kill their entire family.”
Four days later, two people in Pakistan were dead. Relatives of the man who had helped her escape, they were gunned down while riding a motorcycle through the streets of Gujrat.
And now the tale of the Choudhry family, detailed in hundreds of pages of court documents, is a feud of Shakespearean proportions, sprawling across the two continents and the shifting cultures that these immigrants and their American children inhabit.
Nearly two dozen people, including his other children, came to support Mr. Choudhry at his most recent bail hearing, in April. Despite his prison clothes, he looked every bit the jovial grandfather, plump, balding and waving warmly to the crowd before affirming his innocence. For now, the charges in Federal District Court in Brooklyn are for making threats and visa fraud for filing a visa application for Ms. Ajmal’s new husband without her permission. There is a warrant for Mr. Choudhry’s arrest in Pakistan, accusing him of murder.
Ms. Ajmal’s ordeal began three years ago, when, at age 19 and having spent her whole life in Brooklyn, she moved to Gujrat, her ancestral city in northeast Pakistan. Her new home was much like the one she left, filled with relatives from several generations who regularly traveled back and forth between the two countries. Some had helped to raise her after her mother died.
But Ms. Ajmal recently told federal investigators that for three years she was held as a prisoner in her own home. Her confinement was only made worse when her father forced her to marry a local man, Abrar Ahmed Babar, under the threat of death, she said.
Then, with the help of a distant relative, Shujat Abbas, she fled.
When she arrived in the United States in January, she called Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking help. She told officials that her marriage had been arranged so that her husband could obtain legal permanent residency in the United States. Investigators said they later found a visa application for Mr. Babar that had been mailed from Brooklyn, bearing Ms. Ajmal’s signature, even though she was out of the country when it was mailed.
When Ms. Ajmal called her father in February, he lashed out with pleas and threats, most of them directed toward the family of Mr. Abbas, according to a transcript of the secretly recorded calls that was filed in court. “I will catch each and every person of their family, and will kill them, until I find you,” Mr. Choudhry said.
That same day Mr. Choudhry e-mailed the American Embassy in Islamabad, saying Mr. Abbas was a drug smuggler who was wanted by the government of Dubai. He wrote that Mr. Abbas was using his relationship with his daughter to try to gain citizenship.
“He is trying his level best to come to U.S.A. by hook and by crook,” Mr. Choudhry wrote, according to court documents. Mr. Choudhry’s lawyer, Joshua L. Dratel, provided the e-mails to the court in an attempt to show that Mr. Abbas “is not some good Samaritan interested in Amina’s welfare.”
Mr. Abbas’s father and sister were killed four days later. Mr. Abbas’s mother filed a complaint in Pakistan alleging that the assailants were Ms. Ajmal’s aggrieved husband and her father’s brother, who she said were also responsible for “desecrating the bodies.” She named several other relatives of Mr. Choudhry who she said were involved.
In a recorded phone call after the murders, Mr. Choudhry repeatedly denied that he ordered the killings, saying that other enemies of Mr. Abbas’s family must be to blame. But he did not back down from his threats.
“Even if I did kill him, isn’t a person supposed to kill that being, when he finds out that his daughter ran away because of him?” he said, according to court papers. “My name is tainted everywhere in newspapers, on TV channels, that I am a man with no honor, my daughters are whores.”
A legal resident since 1990, Mr. Choudhry, 60, was arrested on Feb. 26 outside his home in Brooklyn. Prosecutors charged him with visa fraud and communicating threats and they continue to investigate his involvement in the murders. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the two pending charges.
His lawyer, Mr. Dratel, filed more than a dozen sworn affidavits from people in Pakistan attesting to Mr. Choudhry’s character, providing alibis for the two accused of being the gunmen and presenting alternative theories for how the killings could have happened. He argued that Mr. Choudhry should be released on bail because he was not charged with murder.
As evidence that Ms. Ajmal was never held against her will, he included a photograph of her at her wedding, a lavish affair with more than 1,000 guests, showing her smiling in an ornate gown, with her arms outstretched, admiring her jewelry.