Witness, defendant remarry But judge orders woman to testify


The ex-wife of a man on trial in the slaying of her boyfriend acknowledged yesterday that the couple remarried last week, hoping a Howard County judge would disqualify her from testifying against her husband.

But Howard Circuit Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. ordered the woman to testify at the trial of Adel George Hagez, saying he believes she only remarried the man to "hinder justice."

Judge Sybert cited cases that permit judges to use their discretion to determine if they believe someone married a defendant to interfere with a trial. Generally, people are not required to testify against a spouse.

The woman, Virginia Dorhan Hagez, is the prosecution's key witness in the trial of Mr. Hagez, a 45-year-old Richmond, Va., man accused of shooting Riad S. Hijas six times at a Jessup motel on June 22, 1991.

Mrs. Hagez has been jailed at the Howard County Detention Center since April 22 to guarantee her court appearance at the trial, which started Monday. Prosecutors said they feared Mrs. Hagez would leave the country to avoid testifying.

Mrs. Hagez, 44, also of Richmond, testified at a hearing yesterday that she remarried her former husband because of her religious beliefs and her treatment at the county jail.

"I have not been treated right," said Mrs. Hagez, who moved to the United States from Lebanon 26 years ago.

"I just wanted to get out. I have been treated as a criminal," she said.

The woman said she and Mr. Hagez were remarried at the detention center on April 30 by an Muslim sheik, or priest, from Baltimore.

Her attorney, James Hanson of Ellicott City, presented Judge Sybert with a marriage certificate marked with an official seal as evidence of the ceremony.

But prosecutors questioned whether the marriage took place. They presented the judge with sign-in sheets for visitors at the detention center that show Mrs. Hagez had no visitors on April 30.

Mrs. Hagez testified that she and Mr. Hagez were married in a civil ceremony in New York in 1969. The couple later went to Lebanon for a religious ceremony, she said.

The couple, who continue to own and operate four restaurants in Richmond, were granted a divorce in March 1991.

Mrs. Hagez said they never sought a religious divorce.

"We are married forever," she said. "I feel that I would not like to testify for my religious purpose. I believe that he is my husband."

William Dorhan, Mrs. Hagez's brother, testified that he has the religious certificate for the marriage, but did not bring it to court. Mr. Dorhan, also from Richmond, said the certificate must be destroyed for a divorce to be granted under the Muslim faith.

Judge Sybert asked Mr. Dorhan why the Hagez couple would remarry if they believe they are still married under their religion's rules.

"It's very hard to prove the marriage," Mr. Dorhan responded. "You need a civil marriage. We had to do another one to show the court."

Mr. Hanson argued that Mrs. Hagez should be released from jail because of the marriage.

"She wants to get out of jail," he said. "She's married. She cannot testify. Let her out of jail."

But Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage asserted that Mr. Hanson's statement "goes further to indicate that this ceremony -- if it took place -- took place to hinder justice."

Ms. Gage last week asked the court to detain Mrs. Hagez to make sure she appears at the trial. The prosecutor noted that Mrs. Hagez was in Lebanon when she was to testify at the murder trial in December. She returned two days after the trial was postponed.

Virginia authorities arrested Mrs. Hagez two weeks ago after she refused to accept a court summons. They found her in a closet behind a rack of clothing at a relative's home.

Mrs. Hagez also posted 10 percent of a $200,000 bond for Mr. Hagez in July 1991, shortly after his indictment, court records show.

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