(CNN) — A Buffalo, New York-area man accused of beheading his estranged wife made his first appearance in court Wednesday to face murder charges, according to the district attorney.
Muzzammil Hassan has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan.
Muzzammil Hassan, 44, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 37-year-old wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan, days after she filed for divorce and was granted a restraining order against him.
In court Wednesday, Hassan waived his right to a felony hearing, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III. The case will go before a grand jury in the next 45 days. In the meantime, Hassan will be jailed without bond.
If convicted, he faces a sentence of 15 years to life, WKBW reported, citing prosecutors.
Muzzammil Hassan went to the police station in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park on Thursday and told officers that his wife was dead, authorities have said. He also led them to her body at the offices of Bridges TV.
The couple began the network in 2004 to counter negative Muslim stereotypes; Muzzammil Hassan is its chief executive officer, and Aasiya Hassan was general manager.
Aasiya Hassan filed for divorce February 6, police said, and Muzzammil Hassan was served with divorce papers at the station. That night, he showed up at the couple’s home, she notified authorities, and he was served with a restraining order.
In fact, reports Aasiya’s divorce attorney, the couple had “physical confrontations off and on” during their entire eight-year marriage, and these recently escalated to Muzzammil issuing death threats. Salma Zubair, who says she is Aasiya’s sister, writes that Aasiya “lived her eight years of married life with fear.”
Aasiya began divorce proceedings on the grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment” and won an “Order of Protection” on February 6 to force Muzzammil out of their shared house, enraging him; according to the local police chief, Muzzammil “came back to the residence and was pounding on doors and broke one window.”
On February 12, the couple encountered each other at the television studio. At 6:20 p.m., Muzzammil went to the police and told them where to find his wife’s corpse. Officers found her body in a hallway at the station, decapitated and with multiple stab wounds. Detectives charged Muzzammil with murder and are looking for the knife used to kill her.
A reliable source informs me – and this is breaking news – that the police found that Muzzammil repeatedly told his wife that she had no right, under Islamic law, to divorce him. They also quote him stating that Aasiya, because she was beheaded, cannot reach paradise.
Muzzammil’s defense lawyer says his client will plead not guilty, presumably by reason of insanity.
The crime was so brutal, shocking and rife with the worst possible stereotypes about their faith that some U.S. Muslims thought the initial reports were a hoax.
The harsh reality of what happened in an affluent suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. — the beheading of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan and arrest of her estranged husband in the killing — is another crucible for American Muslims.
Here was a couple that appeared to be the picture of assimilation and tolerance, co-founders of a television network that aspired to improve the image of Muslims in a post 9-11 world.
Now, as Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan faces second-degree murder charges, those American Muslims who have spoken out are once again explaining that their faith abhors such horrible acts, and they are using the tragedy as a rallying cry against domestic violence.
The killing and its aftermath raise hard questions for Muslims — about gender issues, about distinctions between cultural and religious practices, and about differing interpretations of Islamic texts regarding the treatment of women.
“Muslims don’t want to talk about this for good reason,” said Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, a Muslim author and activist. “There is so much negativity about Muslims, and it sort of perpetuates it. The right wing is going to run with it and misuse it. But we’ve got to shine a light on this issue so we can transform it.”