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Crown lawyer Damienne Darby addresses the court while accused 29-year-old Reza Moazami writes in the prisoner’s box in this court drawing. (Felicity Don/The Canadian Press)
Crown lawyer Damienne Darby addresses the court while accused 29-year-old Reza Moazami writes in the prisoner’s box in this court drawing. (Felicity Don/The Canadian Press)

Not so easy to walk away, witness tells prostitution-ring trial Add to ...

If the teen had been forced to work as a prostitute, why didn’t she simply go to Vancouver police to tell them what had happened, the defence attorney in a prostitution-ring trial asked.

“You make it sound so easy,” she shot back.

The first of 11 complainants to testify against Reza Moazami wrapped up her testimony Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. Mr. Moazami is accused of running the prostitution ring and is facing 36 counts, including charges of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, living on the avails of prostitution and human trafficking.

The 11 complainants were 14 to 19 years old at the time of the alleged offences.

The first complainant to testify – who cannot be identified under the terms of a publication ban – was at times teary-eyed, at other points exasperated while testifying.

After the exchange with defence attorney Danny Markovitz on why she didn’t go to police, the young woman said she’d been led to believe Mr. Moazami was the good guy and the police could not be trusted.

Court previously heard that the young woman suffered from addiction issues when she met Mr. Moazami through a friend. The Crown has said the young woman was given drugs and sexually assaulted by the accused. It was only after the assault, the Crown said, that she agreed to go into prostitution.

The young woman’s testimony, at times, appeared contradictory.

She said she had never worked as a prostitute before meeting Mr. Moazami, but also said she had once sold sexual services. She later clarified that the earlier incident didn’t involve intercourse.

At another point in her testimony, she said she had been forced to have sex with strangers. But when Mr. Markovitz asked if she chose to have sex for money, she quietly said, “Yes.”

The young woman said Mr. Moazami exerted control in a number of ways. She said he would threaten to hurt her dog, and ultimately was the one in charge of her apartment.

The young woman said she left Mr. Moazami after working for him for about a month and a half. The Crown has said she was owed $20,000 to $30,000. The complainant said she worked in prostitution for another six weeks for two other men before leaving the business.

Mr. Moazami was arrested in October, 2011, in an operation Vancouver police called Project Sabr. The department said it chose the name because, in Farsi, sabr means probing a wound or examining something to its very bottom. The Crown has said some of the evidence in the case has been translated from Farsi.

The Crown has said Mr. Moazami told the teens they’d lead glamorous lives in upscale condos and be able to afford nice clothes. Once the girls were established, the Crown said he would use a variety of strategies to ensure they continued making money, from coercion to intimidation to outright violence.

Some of the teens were addicts, most had family and school problems, and all lacked stability and direction in their lives, leaving them at risk.

The trial, now in its second week, is expected to run for more than three months.

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