Canada Denies Suspects Defense Against Media Smears
- View SourceBizarre allegations about Toronto 18, unorthodox
decisions are raising questions about Crown's case
Terror trial proceedings troubling
Sep 25, 2007
Ottawa's abrupt decision to cancel a preliminary
inquiry into Canada's most spectacular post-9/11
terror allegations and instead move directly to trial
raises new and troubling questions.
Everything about the case of the so-called Toronto 18
is shrouded in mystery. Evidence raised in court,
either at bail hearings or the preliminary hearing, is
covered by a publication ban. But this hasn't
prevented the public from knowing allegations against
14 adults and four juveniles that are so bizarre as to
be almost unbelievable.
The Crown claims that at one point the alleged Islamic
terrorists were plotting to cut off Prime Minister
Stephen Harper's head but changed their minds
because they weren't sure where Parliament Hill was.
It also claims some of the 18 attended a Keystone
Kops-style military training camp at Washago north of
Toronto where, it seems, they spent most of their time
complaining about the cold.
Shortly after charges were levelled, the Star reported
the government case rested on two informants. One,
whose name cannot be published, is said to have been
paid $4 million by the government. He was apparently a
central figure in an alleged plot to make a fertilizer
bomb. A second informant, Mubin Shaikh, decided to go
public. Now you can't shut him up. He's been
interviewed by the Star, the National Post, the Los
Angeles Times, the CBC and most recently the BBC.
A former army cadet, Shaikh says he is the man who ran
the alleged Washago terror training camp. In spite of
the publication ban, he's been happy to tell the world
everything he knows and much that he doesn't
including his opinion of one of the alleged
ringleaders ("an effing time bomb").
In one interview, Shaikh claimed the alleged plotters
planned to start a Chechen-style Muslim resistance
movement in Northern Ontario, a region of the country
with few Muslims and even fewer Chechens.
In April, in a completely unrelated case, Toronto
police charged Shaikh with assault and threatening
bodily harm after he allegedly attacked two
He was in the middle of testifying in the terror case
when the Crown shut down the preliminary hearing into
the case of the 14 adults and announced it wanted to
move directly to trial. (Charges have already been
stayed against three of the four juveniles, which
means that they are effectively off the hook).
Defence lawyers for the alleged terrorists are ticked.
It's hard to blame them. The whole reason for a
preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is
enough evidence to warrant trial and, more important,
to give the defence a chance to hear the Crown's case.
Defence lawyers say they made concessions in return
for the right to cross-examine witnesses like Shaikh.
Now they won't have a chance to test his widely
publicized allegations until the trial.
By itself, a decision to avoid preliminary hearings
and move directly to trial is not unusual. The
government has done so in other high-profile criminal
But usually, the Crown makes up its mind at the
beginning; it does not normally change gears halfway
Which leaves us to ask: Was something about to be
revealed in court that the government didn't want
anyone to hear?
Was the Crown getting nervous about its informants?
Is there some other reason?
If I'd attended the preliminary hearing, I might know
the answers to these questions. But then I wouldn't be
able to report them.
So you'll have to wait for the next leak or the next
overseas media interview with one of the government's
star witnesses. Perhaps CNN will call up Mubin Shaikh.
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