A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2008, pages 34-35
Accused Toronto 18—Now Toronto 11—Undergo Trial by Media
By Beenish Gaya
THE TRIAL of the only remaining youth in the Toronto 18 case commenced in late March in a Brampton, Ontario courtroom. Reminiscent of that fateful day in June 2006 when police arrested 17 Muslim men and youths on terrorism charges (see August 2006 Washington Report, p. 44), the media sensationalism started all over again, with the reporting of incomplete evidence under outrageous headlines. Having attended the entire preliminary hearing, I was shocked that these allegations continue to be presented in a manner which prevents the public from having a complete or accurate picture of the case.
In the Canadian legal system, a preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is sufficient evidence against an accused person to warrant going to trial. This gives the accused and his lawyer an opportunity to learn what evidence the police and prosecution plan to use. If the preliminary hearing judge decides there is enough evidence, the case proceeds to the Superior Court.
Unfortunately, in the case at hand, the prosecution abruptly halted the preliminary hearing before the defense lawyers had an opportunity to test and challenge the evidence. As some media have reported, the preliminary hearing was not going as the prosecution had planned—indeed, the government was far from proving anything even approaching an al-Qaeda-inspired homegrown terror plot. As defense attorney Michael Moon has publicly stated, the “evidence” lacks any substance and reveals nothing more insidious than a bunch of guys talking, camping and goofing around.
The prosecution’s strategy to abruptly end the preliminary hearing enables the government to maintain the drama and prolong the climate of fear. These young men and boys, supposedly innocent until proven guilty, have been stereotyped as foreign and threatening.
Two recent articles in particular received extensive exposure: “Alleged Toronto terror plot detailed in court,” by Isabel Teotonio in the March 26 Toronto Star, and “Video calls for defeat of ”˜Rome’ in Canadian terror case,” by Collin Freeze, in the same day’s Globe and Mail.
According to these press reports, the accused teens and young adults were “plotting...an attack ”˜much greater’ in scale than the London 2005 bombings that killed 52 people.” As stated in the material released by Justice John Sproat, however, specifically the brief of attorney Moon, the accused not only lacked the financing and the planning required to plot, let alone carry out, something this outrageous, but underwent almost no real training. Indeed, the charges are based almost entirely on the testimony of informants for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
The level of knowledge and sophistication of the accused men is almost laughable given the seriousness of the allegations against them—one of which is that they intended to storm Parliament Hill and behead politicians. In fact, they did not even know the name of the prime minister, and there were no maps, pictures, plans, computers, or anything that would suggest they were really plotting something, let alone a terrorist attack.
According to the press reports, “the accused attended two training camps. One was a 12-day camp near the town of Washago, Ont., where they practiced military-style exercises in camouflage gear and undertook firearms training with a 9-mm firearm. The second was a two-day camp at the Rockwood Conservation Area, where they donned camouflage clothing and made a propaganda-style video of their military drills.” As made clear in Moon’s brief, these were not training camps and there was nothing even vaguely military about them—except that which was orchestrated by the government’s own agent, the discredited Mubin Shaikh.
The media’s unbalanced and sensational coverage of the case and of Islam, along with the growing trend of Islamophobia and the resulting hatred against Muslims, clearly disadvantage and prejudice the accused. Moreover, the restrictions imposed by the court’s publication bans preclude an effective voice in opposing this misinformation and hate-mongering. All this serves to create an environment that further marginalizes Muslims, and makes it all the more difficult for the accused to be tried in a fair, open and expeditious manner.
Beenish Gaya is a Toronto-based writer and sister of one of the accused. For more information on the case, visit <www.toronto18.com> and watch the following six-part documentary: <http://youtube.com/user/UnfairDealing>.