Honor Killing Trial Begins: Iraqi Father Accused of Killing "Too Westernized" Daughter Says it Was a Mistake

Noor Almaleki (CBS/KPHO/Personal Photo)
Iraqi "Honor Killing" Case Begins in Arizona
Noor Almaleki (CBS/KPHO/Personal Photo)

PHOENIX (CBS/KPHO/AP) Prosecutors are calling it an "honor killing," the defense says it was an accident, but one thing is certain: Noor Almaleki was run down by her father's Jeep, and he was at the wheel.

On Oct. 20, 2009, police say Faleh Almaleki, an Iraqi immigrant, slammed his Jeep Cherokee into his 20-year-old daughter and another woman in a Peoria, Ariz. parking lot. They say he ran them over, murdering Noor and injuring the other woman, because he was angry that his daughter had become "too Westernized."

In her opening statement, defense attorney Elizabeth Mullins, told jurors that that the death was an accident caused when Faleh Almaleki tried to spit on the woman who had helped his daughter, according to CBS affiliate KPHO.

Mullins told the jury that Faleh Almaleki only wanted to show his disgust with the older woman but swerved and ended up running down both women, the station reported.

But prosecutor Laura Reckart said that Faleh Almaleki was increasingly incensed at his daughter's failure to obey him and felt that she was dishonoring the family in her rebellion. Their relationship had become more strained in the two years before her October 2009 death, Reckart said, especially after Noor moved in with her boyfriend and his parents Reikan and Amal Khalaf, after saying her parents had hit her.

The case caused outrage after prosecutors deemed Noor's death an "honor killing" over Almaleki's belief that his daughter had dishonored his family.

When Noor was 17, she refused to enter an arranged marriage in Iraq, enraging her father, according to a court document filed by prosecutors.

She moved into her own apartment at 19 and later in 2009, she moved in with the Khalafs. According to the filing, Faleh Almaleki regularly harassed his daughter and the Khalafs, once telling Reikan Khalaf that if his daughter didn't move out of their home, "something bad was going to happen."

Then came an encoutner at the Arizona Department of Economic Security office. Prosecutors say that after Faleh Almaleki spotted his daughter with the woman he believed was helping her, he waited outside in his Jeep until the two women came out.

Then, "he revved and raced that car right out of the parking spot in a premeditated act and ran them over," Reckart said. Faleh Almaleki then sped off, and fled the country, according to Reckart. Law enforcement caught up with him in London and returned him to Phoenix.

Faleh Almaleki, 50, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of a serious injury accident.