Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Parents handcuffed at their little girl's funeral

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EDMONTON -- A couple who are charged with starving and abusing their daughter were both in tears during the Edmonton girl's funeral on Saturday.

Sheriffs escorted the girl's parents, who can't be named under child protection laws, in handcuffs into the Al Rashid mosque.

People who attended the service say the mother was almost overcome with emotion as she prayed beside the small pink coffin in a room for women, while the father was in tears when the coffin was brought into a room for men.

The girl, known in court documents as M, spent the last three months in a coma, virtually brain dead. She was two years old.

She died Thursday night shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a request to stay an Alberta appeal court ruling that allowed doctors to remove her from a ventilator.

"We prayed for the girl and for the family, to help them out," said Ahmed, who wouldn't give his last name but said he was in the room when the girl's father was brought in to view the coffin.

Ahmed said the man was handcuffed and was led into the room with guards on either side of him. He said the imam led the room in a prayer, and that the father was crying.

A woman who was in the room where the mother viewed the coffin said she, too, was in tears.

As the mother was led out the back door of the mosque and down a flight of stairs to a waiting sheriffs' vehicle, her hands were handcuffed and she appeared to dab her face with a tissue.

The parents face charges of aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life -- offences that are expected to be upgraded now that the girl is dead.

Mustafa Khattab, the imam of the Al Rashid mosque, said Friday the father and mother are not members of the Al Rashid but the community is supportive of their difficult situation.

The mosque is Edmonton's largest. Many of the people who were there during the service didn't know the family and were there for regular prayers.

Ahmed said he didn't know the family, but said people at the mosque have been talking about the case for a while and knew about the funeral.

"Everybody heard about it on TV," he said.

Some, however, were surprised to learn about the funeral, and wondered when they arrived why there were police, sheriffs and media present.

A judge granted an order on Friday to allow the couple to be escorted by security officers to the service.

A condition remains in effect that they not have any contact with each other.

The parents had fought to keep the girl on life-support.

Doctors testified that the girl had an irreversible brain injury and would never regain consciousness.

Paramedics called to their home on May 25 found the girl and her twin sister suffering from injuries and severe malnourishment. Police said they weighed just 13 and 16 pounds.

The surviving girl is now in foster care, as is an older brother, who had also been living in the home but wasn't injured.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2012 A4

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