Monday , February 16, 2009
The estranged wife of a Muslim television executive feared for her life after filing for divorce last month from her abusive husband, her attorney said — and was then found beheaded Thursday in his upstate New York television studio.
Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37, was found dead on Thursday at the offices of Bridges TV in Orchard Park, N.Y., near Buffalo. Her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, has been charged with second-degree murder.
"She was very much aware of the potential ramification her filing for divorce might have," said attorney Elizabeth DiPirro, whose law firm, Hogan Willig, represented Aasiya Hassan in the divorce proceeding. "But she wanted to proceed despite the potential for it to erupt."
DiPirro said the couple had "physical confrontations off and on" for their entire eight-year marriage that had recently escalated to death threats. The grounds for divorce were "cruel and inhuman treatment," DiPirro said, referring to mulitple prior incidents of abuse. She declined to elaborate.
"We were worried about the situation becoming volatile," DiPirro said.
The couple had two children, ages 4 and 6, DiPirro said. Muzzammil Hassan also has two children, ages 17 and 18, from a previous marriage.
DiPirro said Aasiya was a brave mother who sought a better life for her young children.
"She was a very brave woman who was extremely devoted to her children and had come to this decision after a long, thoughtful process and was determined to change her life for herself and her children," DiPirro said.
Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said authorities continue to search for the murder weapon.
Asked if the slaying is being investigated as an honor killing, Benz replied, "It's safe to say we're investigating all the angles we can, all the possibilities in conjunction with the district attorney's office. We're looking at whatever we might come across."
Benz said officers were called to the couple's home on Feb. 6, when Aasiya Hassan had obtained an order of protection barring her husband from the home.
"He was served with divorce papers that day at the [television studio]," Benz said. "He came back to the residence and was pounding on doors and broke one window … He left the premises that night."
Benz said Hassan's body was found on an office floor at the Orchard Park television station. He declined to discuss further details of the killing other than to say investigators believe Muzzammil Hassan acted alone.
"At this point, that's what we believe," Benz told FOXNews.com.
Muzzammil Hassan, who founded Bridges TV in November 2004 to counter anti-Islam stereotypes, surrendered to police Thursday. Hassan touted the network as the "first-ever full-time home for American Muslims," according to a press release.
"Every day on television we are barraged by stories of a 'Muslim extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,'" Hassan said in the 2004 release. "But the stories that are missing are the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence that Bridges TV hopes to tell."
Hassan, who was arraigned Thursday, remains jailed at the Erie County Holding Center. No bail had been set and an attorney for Hassan was not listed, according to a jail spokeswoman. Hassan has a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, Benz said.
Dr. Khalid Qazi, a friend of the couple and president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, said the channel had been under financial strain.
"I cannot believe it — I know them both well," Qazi told the Buffalo News. "I cannot get a handle on this."
Samira Khatib, a friend of the couple, said Aasiya Hassan encouraged her husband to launch the cable channel.
"They were really more than married — they encouraged each other in everything," Khatib told the Buffalo News. "She was such a lovely person."
According to a Web site for Bridges TV, Aasiya Hassan "came up with the idea" for the network. The Web site, which shows an undated photo of the couple, identifies her maiden name as Aasiya Zubair.
"Bridges TV is deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Aasiya [Zubair] Hassan and subsequent arrest of Muzzammil Hassan," a statement posted late Monday read. "Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to the families of the victim. We request that their right to privacy be respected."