Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Accused Toronto 18-Now Toronto 11-Undergo Trial by Media

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Accused Toronto 18-Now Toronto 11-Undergo Trial by Media

Article excerpt

THE TRIAL of the only remaining youth in the Toronto 18 case commenced in late March in a Brampton, Ontario courtroom. Reminiscent of that fateful day in June 2006 when police arrested 17 Muslim men and youths on terrorism charges (see August 2006 Washington Report, p. 44), the media sensationalism started all over again, with the reporting of incomplete evidence under outrageous headlines. Having attended the entire preliminary hearing, I was shocked that these allegations continue to be presented in a manner which prevents the public from having a complete or accurate picture of the case.

In the Canadian legal system, a preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is sufficient evidence against an accused person to warrant going to trial. This gives the accused and his lawyer an opportunity to learn what evidence the police and prosecution plan to use. If the preliminary hearing judge decides there is enough evidence, the case proceeds to the Superior Court.

Unfortunately, in the case at hand, the prosecution abruptly halted the preliminary hearing before the defense lawyers had an opportunity to test and challenge the evidence. As some media have reported, the preliminary hearing was not going as the prosecution had planned-indeed, the government was far from proving anything even approaching an al-Qaeda-inspired homegrown terror plot. As defense attorney Michael Moon has publicly stated, the "evidence" lacks any substance and reveals nothing more insidious than a bunch of guys talking, camping and goofing around.

The prosecution's strategy to abruptly end the preliminary hearing enables the government to maintain the drama and prolong the climate of fear. These young men and boys, supposedly innocent until proven guilty, have been stereotyped as foreign and threatening.

Two recent articles in particular received extensive exposure: "Alleged Toronto terror plot detailed in court," by Isabel Teotonio in the March 26 Toronto Star, and "Video calls for defeat of 'Rome' in Canadian terror case," by Collin Freeze, in the same day's Globe and Mail.

According to these press reports, the accused teens and young adults were " attack 'much greater' in scale than the London 2005 bombings that killed 52 people." As stated in the material released by Justice John Sproat, however, specifically the brief of attorney Moon, the accused not only lacked the financing and the planning required to plot, let alone carry out, something this outrageous, but underwent almost no real training. …

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