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Judge slams car-racket mum who blames Islam – A YOUNG mother has argued her Muslim beliefs forced her into a life of crime.

Shahida Karim-Hawchar, 24, sold stolen cars to unsuspecting buyers because it was her cultural duty to obey her father and her husband, a court heard.

Her lawyer, Tom Danos, said her father, Omar Zayden, and husband Imad pressured her to join their car rebirthing racket.

“This was a religious Muslim family, where the hierarchy was the father, the husband, and then the wife,” Mr Danos told the County Court. “It’s an additional pressure on her to be involved.”

But Judge Felicity Hampel, suspending a 2 1/2-year jail term because the young mum has three sons aged under five, said that argument was an abuse of religion.

“It’s a very sad and debasing thing to hear it suggested that adherence to a religious tenet can justify criminal behaviour,” Judge Hampel said.

“I don’t accept that Islam requires a daughter to obey a directive of the husband or the father, where the directive involves the commission of a criminal offence.”

However, Judge Hampel accepted the obedience argument last year when she allowed Karim-Hawchar to change her plea to the charges.

In August 2006, the Karim-Hawchars both asked to change pleas of guilty to not guilty.

Imad was refused, and was later jailed.

But Shahida was successful: Judge Hampel accepted she’d only admitted guilt because Imad had told her to.

The judge was told Shahida was also only obeying Imad in changing her plea.

But Judge Hampel was satisfied Shahida’s original plea had not been made freely or with an understanding of what it would mean, but in accordance with her religious or cultural duty.

Last month, Shahida appeared before Judge Hampel yet again — this time to change her plea a second time, back to guilty.

Shahida’s father was the head of the Melbourne syndicate, but the court heard he had not been charged.

Imad has just been released from jail after serving a 12-month non-parole term of his 2 1/2-year sentence.

He was also ordered to pay $112,000 in compensation to victims.

Shahida, who pleaded guilty to six counts each of obtaining property by deception and handling stolen goods, was yesterday ordered to pay $89,800 compensation to six people who bought stolen cars from her in June 2001-June 2002.

The court heard many of the buyers were still paying off the cars despite their seizure by police.

Police charged the St Albans couple after investigating details of 157 cars they suspected were involved in an interstate car rebirthing racket.

Cars were stolen in NSW and taken to Victoria to be sold through the Trading Post after their licence plates were switched with those from write-offs.

Police linked six cars to Shahida, whose primary role was to advertise the cars and sell them.

She lied to buyers, telling one she needed to sell the car because she was buying a new house, the court heard.

The six cars had a total value of $104,800 and were sold for a total of $89,800.

The court heard only one of the six original owners had been compensated.

Judge Hampel said Shahida, who was born in Australia but spent 10 years of her childhood in Lebanon, had shown no remorse for her crimes.

As Shahida left court yesterday two men abused and threatened press photographers, walking away only when a policewoman intervened.


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