Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jury Says Three of Four Accused Human Smugglers Not Guilty

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jury Says Three of Four Accused Human Smugglers Not Guilty

Article excerpt

Not guilty for 3 of 4 accused human smugglers

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VANCOUVER - A B.C. Supreme Court jury has acquitted three of four men accused of bringing hundreds of Tamil migrants into Canada illegally, more than six years after a dilapidated cargo ship packed with asylum seekers arrived off the shores of British Columbia.

Justice William Ehrcke declared a mistrial for the fourth man after the jury told the court Wednesday it couldn't reach a verdict in the case of Kunarobinson Christhurajah.

Lesly Emmanuel, Nadarajah Mahendran and Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam were all found not guilty of human smuggling after their lawyers argued they had acted on humanitarian grounds or had been misidentified.

"It's great," Emmanuel said outside court, grinning. "It's beyond words."

Speaking outside court, Mahendran's lawyer, Mark Nohra, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict given the many problems that plagued the RCMP's investigation into his client, which he highlighted for the jury during the trial.

"I felt that there were so many problems with how things were done that the jury would see that," Nohra said. "And I think they did see that."

He described the trial as emotional and "a tough haul," recounting how several jurors broke down crying during the proceedings.

Christhurajah's lawyer could not be reached and the Crown declined comment. A court date was set for next Wednesday to discuss Christhurajah's case.

The jury began its deliberations last Thursday, but on Wednesday told the judge they were collectively exhausted and struggling with the case.

"The jury has made a great deal of progress over the last week. However, consensus continues to elude us on some key points," they told the judge in a note. "You will be unsurprised to discover that these are the most difficult and emotional points to discuss."

Ehrcke told jury members to go back and determine if they could reach any verdicts, and if they couldn't he would declare a mistrial. They returned minutes later with the three not guilty verdicts.

The trial began in October.

The MV Sun Sea travelled from Thailand to Canada in the summer of 2010 carrying 492 Sri Lankan Tamils who intended to claim refugee status. …

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