Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Suspect accused of wanting to behead PM, lawyer claims

I understand from some of my fellows that the CBC has been accused of pandering to the fears of Canadians in explaining this information to us - Canadians. I have to say - this kind of information to me is downright scary! This is no little piece of gossip, these allegations are very serious. Do we take them for granted or do we pay attention? I leave that decision up to you, I offer you a CBC source of this report and a Yahoo report from the U.S. (Which one should we believe?)

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From the CBC...

One of the suspects in an alleged bomb plot in Ontario is accused of wanting to storm Parliament, behead the prime minister and attack a number of sites, including the CBC building in Toronto, his lawyer says.

Four of the men stand before the judge in a Brampton, Ont., courtroom. (John Mantha/CBC)

Lawyer Gary Batasar, who represents Steven Chand, also known as Abdul Shakur, made the comments on Tuesday after a court appearance in Brampton, Ont., for 15 of 17 suspects arrested under Canada's Anti-terrorism Act on the weekend.

"My client's alleged to have been part of a plot to blow up Parliament Buildings in Canada, storm the CBC, take over the CBC, as well as, among other things, behead the prime minister," Batasar said.

Batasar said he was given an eight-page synopsis of the allegations, including storming Parliament, blowing up some of the buildings and taking politicians hostage to demand the withdrawal of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

If the demands were not met, it is alleged, the hostages would be beheaded. The documents allege that Chand, 25, personally wanted to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Police allege the accused — 12 adults and five youths — were inspired by al-Qaeda and planned to make bombs to attack targets in Ontario. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Bail hearings postponed

Defence lawyers asked that the bail hearings be postponed, saying they did not have enough time to prepare and had not seen the evidence against their clients.

The judge granted their requests, rescheduling most of the bail hearings to June 12, and the suspects were remanded into custody.

The lawyers also complained about a number of restrictions placed on their clients. They are in solitary confinement, under 24-hour surveillance and have been denied access to family members.

Lawyer Donald McLeod said he and his colleagues have only been able to speak to their clients through Plexiglas and want private visits with them.

Gary Batasar, lawyer for Steven Vikash Chand, said he was given an eight-page synopsis of the allegations. (CBC)

The defence lawyers also alleged that clients' rights were being violated because a guard in full riot gear was always present when a lawyer held a privileged conversation with a client.

They demanded the situation be changed or said they would go to court on June 12 to get a court order to be allowed to communicate with their clients in private.

Armed guards patrol courthouse

As many as 400 police officers and security officials were involved in the series of raids in southern Ontario that led to the arrests on June 2 and June 3, in the largest operation carried out under the Anti-terrorism Act.

The suspects arrived at the courthouse on Tuesday in unmarked police vehicles, under the watchful eye of armed guards patrolling the area. They were led inside the courtroom shackled together in groups of four, wearing prison-issued white T-shirts and grey pants.

Security was tight but appeared somewhat scaled back compared with the first court appearance of the suspects on Saturday.

Heavily armed police stand on guard on Tuesday outside the courthouse in Brampton, Ont. (CBC)

During that appearance, snipers could be seen on rooftops and heavily armed police officers were posted inside and outside the courtrooms.

Scores of media from both Canada and the United States lined up at the courthouse Tuesday to secure a spot inside. Family members of the suspects were met by throngs of reporters as they entered.

Charges against suspects

All the adult suspects face terrorism-related charges:

  • The 12 men have been charged with knowingly participating, directly or indirectly, in the activity of a terrorist group.
  • Those charges relate to activities in Mississauga, Ont., Toronto and the Township of Ramara, which is located about 150 kilometres north of Toronto.
  • On Monday, six of the men were also charged with planning to cause a deadly explosion.
  • Three of the suspects have been charged with importing firearms and prohibited ammunition, and supplying prohibited weapons.
  • Ten of the men are charged with engaging in terrorism-related training. Residents in Ramara reported hearing gunshots from an area where men were seen dressed in camouflage gear.

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Canada plot allegedly involved PM attack

By BETH DUFF-BROWN, Associated Press Writer

BRAMPTON, Ontario - Some of the 17 Muslim men accused of plotting terror bombings in Canada also planned to storm Parliament, take hostages and behead the prime minister and other leaders, according to accusations revealed Tuesday by the lawyer for one of the suspects.

Authorities further allege that the suspect, Steven Vikash Chand, plotted to take over media outlets, including Canadian Broadcasting Corp., his attorney said after a brief hearing at the Ontario Court of Justice.

Specifics of the charges against the other suspects were not released, but Chand's lawyer, Gary Batasar, asked that the allegations against his client be read in court. He told The Associated Press later that others face similar accusations, but did not say who or how many.

An eight-page document prepared by the prosecution summarzing the charges against all the suspects was not read in open court or distributed to the media, making it difficult to assess how sophisticated the alleged plot was or its progress.

But the purported plot to take political leaders hostage and behead them if Muslim prisoners were not freed and Canada did not pull its 2,300 troops out of Afghanistan added a chilling dimension to a case that has led U.S. authorities to toughen security along the border and unsettled Canada's large Muslim community.

Other defense attorneys declined to discuss the detailed charges. Batasar told AP that other suspects were facing similar allegations.

"It's just generally speaking that the allegations are against my client as well as the other parties," he said. "That's what all the parties are facing."

"The only reason I'm coming out and saying this is that my client is innocent of the charges; he protests his innocence and that's not being heard," Batasar added.

Police say they expect more arrests, and intelligence officers are probing whether 12 adults and five juveniles arrested over the weekend had any ties to Islamic terror cells in the United States and five nations in Europe and Asia.

Chand, a 25-year-old restaurant worker from Toronto, was one of 15 suspects who made brief court appearances Tuesday. They were held behind a glass enclosure, brought in as groups of four or five, chained together in ankle shackles and handcuffs.

Chand, bearded with shoulder-length hair, blew a kiss to supporters as he was led away as formal bail hearings for him and the 14 others were postponed until at least Monday.

"There's an allegation apparently that my client personally indicated that he wanted to behead the prime minister of Canada," said Batasar. "It's a very serious allegation. My client has said nothing about that."

Speaking outside the courthouse, Batasar said the charges were based on fear-mongering government officials.

"It appears to me that whether you're in Ottawa or Toronto or Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C., what is wanting to be instilled in the public is fear," he said.

He also suggested that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who expressed happiness at the arrests, should "keep out of the case."

In Ottawa, Harper appeared to take the alleged beheading threat in stride. "I can live with these threats as long as they're not from my caucus," he joked.

The Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton, a small city just west of Toronto, had said earlier that the suspects faced charges that included participating in a terrorist group, importing weapons and planning a bombing. The specific details were made public Tuesday.

Lawyers and family members said they were being given too little information about the case, and charged that the suspects' rights were not being respected.

Rocco Galati, a lawyer for suspect Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, told the judge that his client's constitutional rights had been violated because he was only able to interview him in the presence of an armed guard.

"The right to private counsel was afforded even at Nuremberg," Galati said.

Outside the court, Donald McLeod, a lawyer for Jahmaal James, 23, also complained of restricted access to his client, including only being allowed to speak to the accused through Plexiglas and not being allowed to have private discussions.

Arif Raza, who represents Saad Khalid, 19, said he had never been allowed to speak to his client and was not even allowed to slip him his business card so Khalid could attempt to call the lawyer from the Maplehurst Correctional Center outside of Toronto.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins praised Canadian authorities.

"We appreciate the swift and effective action taken by Canadian law enforcement officials," Wilkins said in Montreal. "They stepped in decisively and I think helped defuse a very dangerous situation. No country is immune to terrorism and we frankly applaud their swift, decisive, heroic efforts."

The U.S. Border Patrol, meanwhile, put agents on high alert along the 4,000-mile border and stepped up inspections of traffic from Canada.

Some American commentators and politicians have accused Canada of having a lax immigration policy and suggested building a fence along the border. But Harper told Parliament on Tuesday most Americans admire Canada for "our shared concern about the security of this continent."

The case has stunned many Canadians, who have not experienced such a major anti-terrorism case since security measures were intensified after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

"It's breathtaking that this is going on in Canada," International Trade Minister David Emerson told the CBC. "To see the homegrown nature of it is shocking to me."

Police say there is no evidence the suspect group had ties to al-Qaida, but describe its members as sympathetic to al-Qaida's violent jihadist ideology. Officials are concerned that many of the 17 suspects are about 20 years old and became radicalized in a short amount of time.

Officials announced the arrests Saturday, saying the sweep was ordered after the group acquired three tons of ammonium nitrate, which can be mixed with fuel oil to make a powerful explosive. One-third that amount was used in the deadly bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

The 12 adult suspects all are charged with one count of participating in a terrorist group.

Three of them — Fahim Ahmad, 21, Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24 — also are charged with importing weapons and ammunition for the purpose of terrorist activity.

Nine face charges of receiving training from a terrorist group, while four are charged with providing training. Six are charged with intending to cause an explosion that could cause serious bodily harm or death.

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