A Calgary mother never saw her daughter again after sending the 11-year-old on a three-month summer vacation to Egypt with the child's father in 2018 in what has turned out to be a parental kidnapping, according to prosecutors.
The father, Ali Al Aazawi, went on trial Monday in Calgary on charges of international kidnapping and parental abduction.
He is accused of hiding Zaharaa Al Aazawi with family in Iraq in 2018 to keep her from her mother, Zainab Mahdi, who had full custody. Zaharaa, now 13, is still believed to be in Iraq.
All diplomatic efforts to have the girl returned to her mother have been unsuccessful.
The evidence expected to be presented to provincial court Judge Greg Stirling was detailed by prosecutor Martha O'Connor in an opening statement on Tuesday.
Mother learns daughter not in Egypt
Al Aazawi and Mahdi split in 2012 and finalized their divorce in 2017.
Zaharaa was to begin Grade 6 at Midnapore Elementary in September 2018. She had just turned 11.
That summer, Mahdi signed a travel consent document, allowing Al Aazawi to take Zaharaa to Egypt from June 16 to Sept. 5, 2018.
According to O'Connor, Al Aazawi even showed his ex-wife a flight itinerary but within weeks, Mahdi learned her daughter was in Iraq, not Egypt.
Zaharaa did not return to Canada on Sept. 5.
Al Aazawi released on bail
At first, mother and daughter were in contact with each other, exchanging text messages until September.
Now, they are estranged, according to O'Connor.
Al Aazawi eventually returned to Canada alone and was arrested at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 4, 2019.
In a brief statement to the court, defence lawyer Balfour Der suggested that Zaharaa did not want to return to Canada and that Al Aazawi couldn't force the girl.
Al Aazawi was also charged with civil contempt but that was dismissed a year ago.
In December, he was released on bail.
Throughout civil court proceedings, several Calgary judges attempted to place conditions on Al Aazawi in an effort to facilitate the child's return to Canada, which have been unsuccessful.
Court documents show that in 2012, Mahdi sought an emergency protection order, alleging her husband physically and psychologically abused her.
Over the course of the two-week trial, 11 witnesses are expected to be called by the prosecution.