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Man charged in beheading of wife Police probe killing of woman married to Orchard Park businessman

Friends expressed shock on Friday that the head of a Muslim TV channel -- which he launched in order to counter violent images of Muslims -- has been arrested in his wife's brutal slaying.

Detectives have charged Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder after his wife was found beheaded Thursday at the offices of the cable channel, Bridges TV, in the Village of Orchard Park.

The victim was identified as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37.

Police said they continued to search for the murder weapon on Friday and refused to discuss further details of the killing.

"I am totally stunned," said Samira Khatib, a friend of the couple, who lives in Hamburg. "They were really more than married -- they encouraged each other in everything."

It was Aasiya Hassan who encouraged her businessman husband to launch the cable channel, she said. "She was such a lovely person."

Muzzammil Hassan launched the channel in 2004 in hopes of dispelling stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists, and balancing widespread images of Muslim extremism with moderate viewpoints.

Aasiya Hassan had filed for divorce and obtained an order of protection on Feb. 6, barring her husband from their home in Orchard Park, police said.

"There had been problems before -- there had been prior incidents of physical abuse," said Corey Hogan, whose law firm, Hogan Willig, represented Aasiya Hassan in the divorce proceeding.

Hogan said discussions were being held about continuing arrangements for the couple's two children, ages 4 and 6, and two older children, ages 17 and 18, from Muzzammil Hassan's previous marriage.

The family lived on Big Tree Road in Orchard Park.

"Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible," Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Friday.

The television channel, which Hassan had founded after leaving a job at M&T Bank, had been under financial strain, said Khalid J. Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York.

Published reports said that the venture was seeking new investors and battling cable carriers for access to a bigger audience.

In late 2006 a report in Arab News quoted Hassan saying he was trying to raise $5 million from investors in Saudi Arabia.

The English-language broadcast had the endorsement of prominent American Muslims, including boxing great Muhammad Ali. News and other programs developed by the station were distributed via satellite to cable networks around the country.

Qazi said he didn't see signs of that business strain spilling over into the marriage.

"I cannot believe it -- I know them both well," he said Friday. "I cannot get a handle on this."

It would be a mistake to link an act of domestic violence to the couple's religion, he added.

"There is no place for domestic violence in our religion -- none," Qazi said. "Islam would 100 percent condemn it."

The television station's office on Thorn Avenue remained closed off as a crime scene on Friday while the investigation continued. The station's Web site identifies the victim's maiden name as Aasiya Zubair.

Muzzammil Hassan came to Orchard Park Police Headquarters at 6:20 p.m. Thursday and said that his wife was dead, Chief Andrew Benz said Friday.

Hassan told police that his wife was at the television station, where officers went and found her body.

Also involved in the investigation are personnel from the Sheriff's Office, state police, Hamburg police, the District Attorney's Office and the county's Central Police Services Laboratory.

Parents of Muzzammil Hassan were thought to be en route to the area from Texas. Parents of Aasiya Hassan were said to be coming from Pakistan, and the mother of the older Hassan children was said to be coming from Pennsylvania.

Muzzammil Hassan was arraigned before Village Justice Deborah Chimes Thursday and taken to the Holding Center. Holding Center officials said late Friday information about Hassan's bail had not yet been received.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com and gwarner@buffnews.com

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