Jun. 15, 2004. 06:16 AM

Woman 'did nothing' to save girl
Farah Khan's stepmother gets life term
She committed an 'egregious breach of trust'



A stepmother who stood by while her enraged husband murdered and dismembered their 5-year-old daughter, Farah Khan, must stay in jail for almost 11 more years before she is eligible for parole.


"She did nothing to stop the onslaught," Mr. Justice Dave Watt said yesterday before sentencing Kaneez Fatima to life in prison. "As a stepmother she committed an egregious breach of trust."


The Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that Fatima will have no hope of parole for 15 years for, in effect, "aiding and abetting" her ex-husband Muhammad Arsal Khan as he beat and dismembered the tiny Pakistani-born girl.


Since Fatima has served four years and five months in pre-sentencing custody, she will be able to apply for parole on Jan. 19, 2015.


Dressed in green prison sweats and sneakers, the 49-year-old homemaker who is under medication for depression and psychosis showed no reaction to the sentence.


On April 22, a jury convicted Khan, 41, Fatima's former husband and co-accused, of first-degree murder in the slaying, which carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The jury convicted her of second-degree murder.


Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but the judge had to rule on Fatima's period of parole ineligibility from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 25.


The judge canvassed the jurors for their recommendations, as required by law. Two suggested 25 years; four said 20; another four proposed 15; and two gave no advice.


The severity of their recommendations was uncommon considering Fatima was portrayed "somewhat sympathetically" at trial, the judge noted.


The judge noted that prosecutor David Fisher had asked for the upper range of 18 to 20 years for, as he termed it, "the slaughter of an innocent child."


Parents need to understand `their obligation to step in to stop violence towards their children.'


Mr. Justice David Watt


Defence lawyer John Collins asked for the minimum of 10 years for the first offender.


Khan had grabbed the 3-foot, 35-pound girl after an argument over school photos on Dec. 6, 1999. He banged her head, leaving her groggy or unconscious, then slit her throat, Fisher had told jurors. He dismembered the girl and Fatima helped him transport the body parts to an Etobicoke waterfront park, acting as a lookout while he hid them, Watt said.


She later lied to Farah's schoolteacher to cover the girl's disappearance, the judge said.


"It involves a serious breach of trust by a biological father and a stepparent," the judge said. "They were supposed to protect her from harm, not kill her."


Although Fatima was not the primary killer, "she was not the mere spectator frozen by fear" that she portrayed herself as to a friend, he said.


But there is no doubt she was abused by Khan, who expected "obedience to his every command," the judge added.


Although she apparently had a good relationship with the girl, it was not the first time Fatima had made no attempt to stop her from being harmed, the judge said. The girl's recovered body parts showed signs of many previous injuries.


Parents need to understand "their obligation to step in to stop violence towards their children," Watt said. "If they stand by ... they must understand that the punishment will be severe."


The judge discounted much testimony, called by the crown at Fatima's sentencing hearing, from a former husband and three of his sons. They portrayed her as physically and verbally abusive to the boys.


Outside court, Collins said that although Fatima received a fair trial under the judge's direction, it doesn't mean the jury's verdict necessarily fit the evidence. "On that basis, we are giving serious consideration to an appeal," of both her conviction and sentence, he said.


Fisher told reporters he hopes that both murderers' life sentences will give some "measure of closure for the community and ensure that some justice has been achieved for Farah."