Houston Chronicle

Killer’s daughter testifies he praised 9/11 terror attacks

- By Brian Rogers

A Jordanian immigrant facing the death penalty in Houston praised Osama bin Laden for the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and said the violence was deserved, his daughter testified Tuesday in the sentencing phase of the trial.

Nesreen Irsan, 30, told jurors that her fervently Muslim father, Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, was living in Conroe when the infamous attacks occurred and was happy that Americans had died. He also told his 12 children that 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 kill-

ings” 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 x 4 board or his cane.

The case made internatio­nal headlines after Irsan was arrested in 2014 in the shooting deaths of Coty Beavers, 28, and Gelareh Bagherzade­h, a 30year-old medical researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a 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 an area 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 Irasan also outlined myriad scams her father used to get money, including feigning disabiliti­es, faking slip and fall claims at large retailers and even lying to cashiers about coupons.

Irsan would use his forceful personalit­y to get his children to fake mental illness in an effort to get government checks or cheat 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-yearold Shmou Alrawabdeh, took the witness stand for a second time Tuesday against her husband and corroborat­ed Nesreen Irsan’s account that Ali Irsan killed the husband of another daughter. 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 gunshots.

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 it.

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 Irsan 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 its sixth week.

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