Canadian Supreme Court Reviewing First Ever Terrorism Conviction
Momin Khawaja was the first Canadian charged under Canada’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism act in 2004. He is currently serving life in prison.
Khawaja was accused and convicted of participating in the 2004 London ‘fertilizer bomb’ plot in which public spaces around London were to be bombed. Five men were found guilty of planning the attacks in Britain and Khawaja was connected to them and accused of developing detonators. Khawaja’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, argued that the man was unaware that he was helping a bomb plot in London, but thought his work was going to the aid of the jihad forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. His lawyer argued motive should matter in the case – that Khawaja had involved himself in a legitimate and lawful war and not attacks in peaceful cities.
Khawaja was charged in 2004 and tried between 2006 and 2008. He was sentenced to 15 years, including his five years of time served, based on this argument, but the Ontario Court of Appeal reviewed the case and made the decision that motive does not matter and extended his sentence to life.
Greenspon points out that the fight against certain aspects of the anti-terrorism act set out by the Canadian government was ongoing during Khawaja’s original trial and it has since been struck down. The act was hastily put together after the 9/11 attacks and received Royal Assent in December 2001.
The motive clause was struck down by the judge in Khawaja’s case as violating his Charter rights, but the appeal court upheld the clause. Greenspon is now arguing to the Supreme Court that if they had known the clause would stay in effect, Khawaja would have taken the stand to defend himself.
Greenspon will argue to the Supreme Court that the motive clause could create major issues for people who “express support for, but who don’t actively or knowingly “facilitate” actual terrorist activity…” The court will also be reviewing two other cases which challenged the government’s definition of terrorist activity and whether that definition is Constitutional.
The review of Khawaja’s case began on June 11
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