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Slain wife's words pierce the legalisms

In Muzzammil Hassan's world, everyone is to blame but himself.

The "white Nazi" guards he said had assaulted him in jail. The attorneys he has fired since he began preparing for trial. The judge he once called "evil" in court.

And, most tragically, his wife, Aasiya, who was found dead nearly two years ago at the Orchard Park television station that the couple started.

It's too much to stomach.

Hassan has spent more than six months airing his planned defense that he was the "battered spouse" in the nine-year marriage that ended when Aasiya's body was found decapitated in the Thorn Avenue offices of Bridges TV.

It flies in the face of the thick stack of documentation that Aasiya, 37, meticulously compiled with an attorney six days before her death.

The paperwork -- a divorce affidavit and a series of police reports, letters and photographs obtained last spring by News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan -- paints a heartbreaking portrait of a mother trapped by fear and abuse at the hands of a master manipulator.

Her words pierce the cold formality of the legal format. Her fears are chilling. Her descriptions are almost too painful to read.

"The defendant began physically abusing me shortly after we were married, and over the course of our marriage, the abuse has grown progressively worse."

As I read these words from Aasiya's affidavit, I see the picture we've seen countless times of the two together in the Bridges studio. Aasiya, wisps of dark brown hair falling softly over her eyes, smiles widely. Her hands are clasped together. Hassan, with a stiff smile, stands slightly to her right.

"There are countless instances of physical, emotional and verbal abuse that are not recounted in this affidavit."

She was raising four children -- two of her own and two stepchildren from Hassan's prior marriage. She was working toward a master's in business administration. She was running the Bridges studio alongside her husband.

"In February 2002, the defendant punched me in the parking lot of the 7-11 store we owned at the time. This was the first time he ever physically abused me in public."

They had married less than two years earlier in Karachi, Pakistan. At times, she wrote, she worked overnight shifts at the store to cover for employees who called in sick.

"The defendant's desire to help me fix my 'personality flaws' has been a recurring theme throughout our marriage. On many occasions, the defendant and I have spent hours and even full days in our bedroom while he lectures me about character flaws and attempts to revamp my personality."

The couple launched the American Muslim television network they hoped would bridge the gap between Muslims and "mainstream America" in late 2004. Hassan credited his wife with developing the idea.

But their private life appeared tragic.

"In August 2004, when I was eight months pregnant, the defendant became angry with me when I attempted to leave the room while he was trying to talk to me. The defendant pushed me on the staircase, causing me to fall and fracture my tailbone."

The grim details go on and on. Eighteen exhibits back up her allegations.

"I am afraid of what he might do."

Read these words and it's nearly impossible to see Muzzammil Hassan, who police say provided a confession shortly after the murder, as the victim.

Muzzammil Hassan's defense will play out during the next few weeks in a murder trial for which jury selection is scheduled to begin today. Aasiya Hassan told her story in writing six days before she died.

Whom do you believe?

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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