News agencies – January 4, 2013
When Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the return to Canada of Omar Khadr in September 2012, he said he was confident that the convicted war criminal would receive “appropriate programming” in prison to ensure his safe re-integration into society. Yet, when Postmedia News submitted an access-to-information request for any records that relate to how the Correctional Service of Canada manages convicted terrorists and extremists, it was told that no such records exist. Observers say the government ought to have developed some kind of strategy by now for rehabilitating these unique inmates, given the earlier convictions in the “Toronto 18” terror case and the conviction of Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja.
“It is reasonable to expect that some thought should have gone into this,” said Jez Littlewood, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. “Aside from Khadr, the 11 convictions in the TO-18 case and the Khawaja case, should have initiated some discussion or paperwork.”
In recent years, the correctional service’s own annual reports have highlighted the need to address this apparent gap in prison programming. Canada’s spy service, CSIS, has raised concerns about the spread of extremist views within the prison system, noting in a 2012 threat assessment that “studies have identified that Islamist extremists have been further radicalized in prisons in countries such as Canada.”
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.”
The first Canadian to be sentenced under the country’s new anti-terrorism legislation will appeal against his conviction, his lawyer says. Pakistan-born Momin Khawaja was convicted of involvement in a foiled fertilizer bomb plot in Britain and sentenced to 10 years and six months.
He was found guilty in October 2008 by a judge in Ontario, Canada in a trial without a jury. Legal experts regarded the trial as a test of Canada’s anti-terror laws.
Khawaja’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, filed the appeal in Ontario, arguing that there were gaps in the prosecution’s evidence. During the 2008 27-day trial, Greenspon suggested Khawaja’s jihadist activities were consistent with his plan to fight with Muslim insurgents in Afghanistan. Such combat, he said, is lawfully exempted under an “armed conflict” provision in Canada’s anti-terrorism laws.
The defense lawyer of Momin Khawaja, a Pakistani-born Canadian citizen, accused of collaborating with a group of British Muslims who in 2004 sought to bomb British buildings and natural gas grids, told the Ontario Superior Court that his client’s case should be thrown out. Attorney Lawrence Greenspon presented a motion requesting that the terrorism charges be dropped due to a lack of evidence to substantiate bomb-plot allegations. Khawaja has said that while he wanted to fight for the Islamic cause in Afghanistan, he never intended to bomb civilians in Britain. Khawaja, an Ottawa software developer, faces seven charges under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which include financing and facilitating terrorism, participating in terrorist training and meetings, and making a house owned by his family in Pakistan available for terrorist use. Khawaja has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In this Ottawa trial last week, it was revealed that former software designer Momin Khawaja used an Ottawa-area woman to funnel funds to colleagues in an alleged terrorist financing scheme. Zenab Armandpisheh testified she met Mr. Khawaja in the fall of 2002 in an Internet chat room when she was an 18-year-old college student, but cut off ties in mid-2003 as she grew suspicious of his activities. She never knew his real name, but shortly after was put into contact with Anthony Garcia, one of the five men convicted by a British jury last year of plotting to bomb target in and around London. Ms. Armandpisheh also said that Mr. Khawaja sent her several emails about various recent terrorist attacks and handed her a number of DVDs depicting jihadi activities, encouraging that she “play them for others.”
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The strongest evidence in the case of the first man charged under Canada’s antiterrorism act was revealed in court – emails he wrote over the course of a year prior to his arrest. Mohammad Mowin Khawaja, 29, wrote messages to conspirators in Britain referring to detonation devices, routing recruits to a house in Pakistan, as well as ways to send money and night-vision goggles to insurgents in Afghanistan. Defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon conceded that his client had written the messages. A visit to an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in 2003 is said to have had a lasting impact on him.