Taxi driver sex­ual as­sault trial be­gins

Com­plainant de­scribes her ex­pe­ri­ence with driver

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - Canada - Kieran leav­itt

The com­plainant in an­other sex­ual as­sault trial in­volv­ing a Hal­i­fax taxi driver gave an emo­tional tes­ti­mony dur­ing day one at the Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court.

Seyed Mir­saeid-ghazi picked up the then-21-year-old woman on Wind­sor Street in the early hours of Oct. 24, 2015. By April 2016, he was ar­rested and charged based on the al­leged events that took place that night.

The com­plainant, whose name is pro­tected un­der a pub­li­ca­tion ban, said in court Mon­day that she told Mir­saeid-ghazi she was cold dur­ing the drive.

“He placed his hand on my left leg and was rub­bing it to warm it up,” she said.

When she be­came un­com­fort­able, she turned her body away from him. But it went fur­ther, the com­plainant said. “He put his hand down into my dress to grab my chest,” she said.

She started cry­ing dur­ing her tes­ti­mony as she told the court how he asked her to go get cof­fee with him as they drove past her apart­ment, and asked her to kiss him.

“He asked me if I trusted him and to look at him,” she said.

She be­gan to get scared. She turned her body away again, and said she re­moved his hand that was on her bare breast. “I was scared that I wasn’t go­ing to be go­ing home,” she re­called think­ing when he passed her apart­ment. At no time did she give con­sent for touch­ing, she said.

She de­cided to call her room­mate at the time, whom Metro has de­cided not to name so as to not iden­tify the com­plainant.

The com­plainant put her room­mate on speak­er­phone while in the cab, and she said Mir­saeid-ghazi pulled a U-turn to drive her back to her apart­ment.

She also de­scribed the events lead­ing up to Mir­saeid-ghazi pick­ing her up that night. He was known to her group of friends as a “friendly” cab driver who they called a few times for rides.

She had a few al­co­holic drinks ear­lier in the evening while hang­ing out with some friends, but she and the two other wit­nesses in the trial said the two or three drinks had lit­tle ef­fect on her speech or mo­bil­ity.

Around 1 a.m. she walked with a friend down to Quin­pool Road to meet up with the friend’s boyfriend. In­stead of then walk­ing back home alone, the com­plainant’s friend sug­gested she get a cab. When Mir­saeid-ghazi picked her up, she got into the front seat and they made small talk about the weather, she said.

The com­plainant’s room­mate also took the stand Mon­day, and de­scribed the com­plainant as dis­tressed as she watched her get out of the cab out­side their Wind­sor Street apart­ment build­ing.

“She was cry­ing and she was up­set,” said the wit­ness.

The Mir­saeid-ghazi trial will con­tinue Tues­day, and is sched­uled to run un­til Thurs­day.

Sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing taxi driv­ers have been in the spot­light across Canada since for­mer Hal­i­fax taxi driver Bas­sam Al-rawi was ac­quit­ted last March in a con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion in which pro­vin­cial court Judge Gre­gory Lene­han said, “clearly a drunk can con­sent.”

That de­ci­sion has since been over­turned on ap­peal, and Al­rawi is now await­ing a new trial.

Jeff Harper/metro

Seyed Mir­saeid-ghazi at Hal­i­fax Pro­vin­cial court on Thurs­day.

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