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|Written by Noman Bajwa|
|Friday, 08 June 2012 10:39|
Lawyers for three men accused of being part of a homegrown terror cell have expressed dismay about a sudden federal move that derailed months of planning.
On May 16, federal prosecutors unexpectedly announced the three suspects in the Project Samossa case will go directly to trial in Ontario Superior Court.
The three men, Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh and Misbahuddin Ahmed of Ottawa, and Khurram Syed Sher of London, Ontario were arrested in August 2010 for plotting to build and detonate bombs in Canada.
On May 16, additional charges of participating in the activities of a terrorist group were laid against Mr. Alizadeh, 32, and Mr. Ahmed, 28. In addition, the two men now face counts of possessing or constructing explosive devices.
The RCMP is also alleging that one member of the group, ostensibly Mr. Alizadeh, had been trained to construct electronic and explosive devices.
Mr. Alizadeh's lawyer, Matt Webber has demanded a formal explanation for the move by the prosecution to skip the preliminary hearing. “The defence needs to test and discover the Crown’s case, so (the move by the prosecutor) is an expense to us,” Mr. Webber said, adding that he takes the preliminary inquiry process “very seriously.”
Although cases in Ontario have gone directly to trial before, Mr. Webber believes it was unjustified in this case.
Mr. Webber described Mr. Alizadeh's reaction to the court decision as “bafflement”, adding that their frustration was compounded by the fact that “the Department of Justice never explained why (they) weren't invited to make submissions.”
Mr. Alizadeh's co-counsel, Leo Russomanno, who is an associate attorney in Mr. Webber's firm, said he was dismayed.
“We were getting ready to do this prelim[ary hearing] in the middle of June and now it has been effectively scuttled,” Mr. Russomanno told the London-based Cageprisoners group in an interview.
Mr. Ahmed's attorney, Mark Ertel, similarly expressed surprise at the prosecution's decision. Mr. Ertel said, "All it really does is deprive the accused men of the usual opportunity to test the Crown's case at a preliminary inquiry, which is a basic right that people charged with most indictable offences have.”
Mr. Ahmed was an X-ray technician at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital for two years when he was arrested. He was considered a model employee who according to his supervisor, Guy Morency, got along very well with his co-workers.
As a general radiology technologist at the Civic Hospital, Mr. Ahmed worked close to a storage area for radioactive isotopes, but had no official access to this area. Isotopes, which are variants of a particular chemical element, are used by hospitals to diagnose and treat illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. However, isotopes can also be utilized to build so-called “dirty bombs.” Part of the government's case against Mr. Ahmed is that he did somehow gain access to this storage area.
Khurram Sher, a pathologist, faces one count of conspiring to facilitate terrorist activity. According to Mr. Webber, the basis of the charges against Mr. Sher are much more focused than the charges against the other two men, and therefore, Mr. Sher's case will be tried separately.
Since the three men were arrested in 2010, only Mr. Alizadeh has remained in custody because neither he nor any of his relatives have been able to post his bail. Mr. Ahmed was released on bail on September 29, 2010 and Mr. Sher was granted bail two weeks later.
Mr. Webber is appealing particularly to the Muslim community but also to the Ottawa community at large to help develop “a sustainable bail solution” for Mr. Alizadeh, who has already been incarcerated for more than twenty one months.
“We need a proposal in which [Mr. Alizadeh] can live and be supervised by somebody. It would be invaluable to us if people would step forward to help and he could be granted bail now,” he said. ■