Canadian Supreme Court reviews first conviction under anti-terrorism act

CBC News – June 11, 2012


In 2004, Mohammad Momin Khawaja became the first Canadian charged under Canada’s anti-terrorism act. He was convicted four years later and is now serving a life sentence. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon begin a review of the case.

On March 29, 2004 police arrested Momin Khawaja and searched the Khawaja family residence, finding the hifidigimonster in his older brother Qasim’s bedroom. According to the judge who found Momin Khawaja guilty, Qasim’s bedroom “seemed to be the site” where the device “was being developed and modified.” Family members were detained but later released. The U.K. suspects were tried first, in a trial lasting 13 months where the jury spent 27 days deliberating — the longest ever for a U.K. crime case. In the end, five of the defendents, Omar Khyam, Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar, Waheed Mahmood, and Salahuddin Amin, were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Khawaja was convicted on five counts but not for the London bomb plot. In Justice Douglas Rutherford’s judgment, “The evidence does not lead inescapably, or beyond a reasonable doubt, to the conclusion that Momin Khawaja was privy to the fertilizer bomb plot or its existence.” Rutherford sentenced Khawaja to serve a further 10.5 years in jail. On Dec. 17, 2010 the Ontario Court of Appeal increased Khawaja’s sentence to life imprisonment, arguing that terrorism “must be dealt with in the severest of terms.”

The Supreme Court’s review of the Khawaja case, along with two other anti-terrorism act cases [see sidebar], will examine the constitutionality of the definition of “terrorist activity” in the criminal code. The key issue centres on what’s called the motive clause, which states that terrorism activity is that committed, “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.”

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