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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Trial of Iraqi man accused of strangling ex-wife in ‘honor killing’ to start Monday

A 33-year-old Iraqi immigrant is set to stand trial this week for the death of his ex-wife in what investigators called an “honor killing.”

Yasir Darraji is charged with second-degree murder and harassment related to the 2020 death of his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji.

He has maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings. His attorney, Robert Cossey, said he plans to argue that Darraji didn’t kill his ex-wife.

Ibtihal Darraji, 29, was found strangled in a burning car on Spokane’s South Hill in January 2020.

At the time of her death, the pair had been divorced for about four years and shared custody of their two children, according to court documents.

Ibtihal Darraji worked at St. Aloysius Church until the September before her death, Don Weber, church administrator, told The Spokesman-Review in 2020.

Weber said Ibtihal and Yasir had an arranged marriage in Iraq. Court documents indicated they married in 2006, when Ibtihal was about 15 and Yasir was 17. Ibtihal was about 16 when she gave birth to their daughter.

After the couple moved to Spokane in 2014, Yasir Darraji began an affair and Ibtihal wanted a divorce, according to court documents. By late 2015, Yasir Darraji’s girlfriend was pregnant.

The woman told police Yasir Darraji had threatened to kill her multiple times and assaulted her when she was pregnant with their child, according to court documents.

Two months later, in February 2016, Ibtihal Darraji filed a declaration in Spokane County Superior Court, claiming Yasir Darraji had attacked her several times. She said he sent photos of her without a hijab to her family in Iraq to anger them and threatened to send her children back to Iraq, where he said his family would kill her if she tried to get her children back, according to court documents.

Ibtihal said her ex-husband continued to harass her for years after their divorce was finalized in 2017, according to court documents.

Ibtihal Darraji reported that her husband’s side of the family kidnapped her at gunpoint and held her hostage when she visited Iraq in December 2018, according to a search warrant filed in Spokane County Superior Court in 2021.

She escaped with the help of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, according to documents from the embassy given to local police.

In November 2019, Ibtihal Darraji said her ex-husband still was contacting her family and members of the Iraqi community in Spokane to spread rumors about her “shameful behavior,” such as smoking marijuana and wearing shorts, according to court documents.

In January, just weeks before her death, police were called to an incident between Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji, according to court documents.

Ibtihal and a friend confronted her ex-husband and his friend about men spreading rumors that Ibtihal was pregnant out of wedlock, according to court documents.

Yasir recorded the conversation and complained to police that his ex-wife’s friend had assaulted him previously for spreading rumors, court documents show. Deputies didn’t take any action that night, according to court records.

Police discovered Ibtihal‘s body in a burning Toyota Prius on Jan. 30, 2020. Yasir Darraji was arrested the next day.

He told police he was upset because he smelled marijuana in Ibtihal’s car when she picked up their young son on the night she died. He said he planned to go to work as a Lyft driver but was so upset he ended up just driving around, according to court documents.

Police investigated a close friend of Yasir‘s as a potential accomplice to the homicide, but the man was never charged.

Prosecutors indicated in court documents they plan to argue the dynamic between Yasir Darraji and his wife was one of “control and domination.”

Jury selection is set to begin on Monday, with the trial scheduled to continue through Nov. 22.

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