A Jordanian immigrant facing the death penalty in Houston praised Osama bin Laden for the terror attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001, and said the violence was deserved, his daughter testified Tuesday.
Nesreen Irsan, 30, told jurors that her fervently Muslim father, 60-year-old Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, was living in Conroe when the infamous attacks occurred and was happy that Americans had died. He also told his 12 children they should become suicide bombers if asked.
“He said it’s what America deserves,” the daughter said as she testified against the father who has been convicted of killing her husband and best friend in two “honor killings” in 2012.
Asked exactly what he said, Nesreen Irsan made a statement in Arabic, then explained: “It means God bless Osama bin Laden.”
The shocking statements came during Nesreen Irsan’s second day of testimony in the punishment phase of her father’s capital murder trial. On Monday, she described how Irsan beat her and her siblings with a hose, a length of 2×4 board or his cane.
The case made international headlines after Irsan was arrested in 2014 for the shooting deaths of Coty Beavers, 28, and Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a 30-year-old medical researcher at MD Anderson and a part-time Iranian activist.
Irsan was convicted last week of coordinating the two “honor killings,” which took place 11 months apart, shooting deaths fueled by his anger against the young husband and a friend who had helped his adult daughter run away from home and convert to Christianity, prosecutors alleged.
On Tuesday, Nesreen Irsan also said her father told his 12 children that they would have to be suicide bombers if they were ever asked.
“He said it’s an honorable thing,” she told jurors. “You go straight to Heaven. It’s a God-like thing.”
Nesreen Irsan did not feel the same way, she said, and wanted to quit Islam since she was about 12. When she was 23, she met Beavers at a Houston college and ran away from home to marry him and convert to Christianity in 2011.
That led Irsan to stalk his daughter for more than a year and eventually kill Bagherzadeh, and then Beavers in 2012 to “wash his honor in blood,” prosecutors said.
Nesreen also outlined myriad scams her father used to get money, including feigning disabilities, faking slip and falls claims at large retailers and even lying to cashiers about coupons.
Irsan would use his forceful personality to force his children to fake mental illness in an effort to get government checks or cheat the Medicaid, social security and other government programs, his daughter told the jury.
“He would make sure to get his way,” Nesreen Irsan said.
She told jurors how her father once broke a circular saw, faked an injury and then negotiated a $70,000 settlement with the equipment manufacturer.
Testimony also showed that he opened dozens of credit card accounts under different names, including his children’s names and the name of his dead brother.
Irsan’s nephew, Ahmed Garcia, also testified about the scams and confirmed that Irsan regularly beat his children with hoses and sticks.
Irsan’s wife, 40-year-old Shmou Alrawabdeh, took the witness stand for a second time Tuesday against her husband and corroborated Nesreen Irsan’s account that Irsan killed another of his daughter’s husband. The fatal shooting took place in her presence at their home in 1999, and her husband apparently escaped criminal charges by planting a gun on his son-in-law’s body and claiming self-defense.
Alrawabdeh described how she was in the house at Irsan’s rural Montgomery County compound when 29-year-old Amjad Alidam came to visit and congratulate her on her newborn baby.
After Alidam arrived, she went to prepare coffee and was in her bedroom when she saw her husband walk toward the living room with a 12-gauge shotgun. She heard a loud blast, then minutes later, two lesser gun shots.
She said Irsan called her to the room
“He didn’t have to say it,” Alrawabdeh testified. “I seen it.”
She said her husband sipped his coffee, then walked over to the body and spit on him.
When law officers arrived, Irsan claimed his son-in-law was abusing his daughter and had threatened him and his family with violence.
It was the third slaying that Irsan’s wife testified about.
Last week, Alrawabdeh took the stand and said she accompanied her husband and their oldest son as they stalked Nesreen for months after she ran away in 2011.
She acknowledged that she was with them when Irsan killed Beavers in his northwest Harris County apartment. She said her son, Nasim Irsan, shot and killed Bagherzadeh outside the Galleria-area home of her parents.
Alrawabdeh made a plea bargain deal with prosecutors to testify against Irsan in exchange for a guilty plea to aggravated kidnapping and a jail sentence capped at time served.
The son, Nasim Irsan, 24, is in the Harris County jail on a charge of capital murder.
State District Judge Jan Krocker is presiding over the capital murder trial, which is in it’s sixth week.