Judge reserves decision in Toronto terror trial

Posted by admin on Aug 9th, 2008

CBC  Friday, August 8, 2008

The fate of the first person tried in an alleged homegrown terrorist conspiracy to “cripple Canada” that captured headlines around the world two years ago rested with an Ontario judge Friday as the trial ended with the defence pressing for the man’s acquittal. Superior Court Justice John Sproat was left to decide between defence suggestions the plot was a “jihadi fantasy” the accused knew nothing about, and Crown assertions he was a knowledgeable and willing participant in a potentially deadly conspiracy.

In wrapping up two days of defence closing arguments, lawyer Mitchell Chernovsky argued a statement the accused gave police just hours after his arrest in June 2006 was a “dramatic piece of evidence” that proves his client was unaware of any terrorist plot.

For example, the lawyer told Sproat, the accused was genuinely stunned to hear police had seized bomb-making chemicals during the arrests of his alleged co-conspirators.

“Hold on. Hold on. Before you go on,” the accused interrupts RCMP Sgt. John Tost during the videotaped interrogation.

“Bomb-making? We? We?”

“That was not staged,” Chernovsky said. “No one could stage that. That was absolutely sincere.”

Crown lawyer John Neander, on the other hand, said the youth was quite capable of lying to police.

The 20-year-old accused, who cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time of his alleged offences, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in a terrorist conspiracy.

He was one of 18 people arrested two summers ago in what police alleged was a bloody-minded plot to storm Parliament Hill, behead politicians, and truck-bomb nuclear power plants and RCMP headquarters.

Seven of those arrested have had their charges either stayed or withdrawn.

The defence, with the help of evidence from the Crown’s own star witness, has portrayed their client as a “naive and immature” teenager whom the alleged plot leaders kept in the dark about their murderous scheme.

“Whatever was afoot, he did not know what anybody else’s plans were or might have been,” Chernovsky said outside court.

“He was saying from his heart that he didn’t know of any plans to attack Canada. He said that repeatedly, he said that sincerely, and he said that quite credibly.”

Sproat said he would give his verdict Sept. 25.

Court heard the accused described as a polite and respectful youth who was estranged from his Hindu family because he had converted to Islam and sought out other Muslims — one of whom, the alleged co-leader of the terrorist ring, became his mentor.

“These guys were, like, religious people. I don’t think they were, like, planning to do something against Canada,” the accused told the interrogating officer at one point.

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