Crown frees four in terror case

Globe and Mail Update

The Crown has effectively dropped charges against four adult suspects in the 2006 Toronto terrorism case, sending the strongest signal yet that the portion of the case dealing with an alleged terror training camp is much weaker than first believed.

Ibrahim Aboud, Ahmad Ghany and Abdul Qayyum Jamal all signed peace bonds at a Brampton courthouse on Tuesday morning. Indictments against them were stayed later in the day.

Tuesday afternoon, lawyer Clyde Bond announced he was also staying charges against a fourth suspect, Yasim Abdi Mohamed.

Mr. Mohamed was already jailed when the June 2006 roundup occurred, and was in the process of serving a two-year sentence for smuggling a handgun across the border.

As the other suspects were taken into custody, police alleged the gun smuggling was part of the broader terrorist conspiracy. That, however, is no longer the case, with the staying of the charge.

Previously, some of the young offenders in the case had been given similar deals, but this is the first time any of the adult accused have had the charges against them all but dropped. After 12 months, the peace bond expires and it as though the three suspects were never charged.

The main conditions attached to the peace bonds include a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, with exceptions for work, school and other situations. The men must also relinquish their passports, put up $10,000 bonds and agree to refrain from talking to any of the remaining accused.

In the two years since the terrorism arrests, the Crown has stayed charges against all but one of the young offenders, abruptly halted a preliminary hearing for the adult suspects in favour of going directly to trial, and now has stayed charges against four of the adults.

All three of the suspects who signed peace bonds in Brampton Tuesday morning admitted to attending or stopping by the camp, which ran from Dec. 18 to 31, 2005. But all disagreed with the Crown assessment that it was a jihadist exercise, at least as far as they were concerned. The Crown and defence have now essentially agreed to disagree on the nature of the camp, and, given the peripheral role of the three accused in the camp, it was not felt to be worth going to trial.

Two of the three suspects were always believed to have been on the periphery of the case. Mr. Aboud was only 19 when he was arrested. His arrest came months after the initial 17 suspects were rounded up, and he was quickly granted bail.

Mr. Ghany, a 21-year-old McMaster University health-sciences graduate who is alleged to have taken terrorist training, was also granted bail in the summer of 2006.

The third suspect was once considered a spiritual leader of the group.

Twice as old as most accused, 45-year-old Qayyum Jamal was rumoured to have been something of a ringleader and proselytizer – an angry man who befriended high school students and urged them to extremism and jihad. Initially he was charged with attending a week-long terrorism training camp, and also for being in on an alleged truck-bomb conspiracy targeting sites in downtown Toronto.

After the arrests, a New York Police Department report even described Mr. Jamal as a ”spiritual sanctioner” whose ”us versus them” world view was crucial in the indoctrination of some younger suspects, whom he took bowling or to play soccer. Days after the bust, Mr. Janal's own MP, Wajid Khan, publicly described Mr. Jamal as a reason why Islamic parents should be vigilant about whom their kids speak to.

Yet as of Tuesday, Mr. Jamal no longer faces any allegation of any criminality. Charges that he was in on the bomb conspiracy were dropped last fall as he was released on bail. Charges that he participated in a terrorist training camp were dropped on Tuesday.

”(It was) just winter camping and the paintball, you heard that in court,” Mr. Jamal said outside of court at noon.

”Everybody is allowed to do that,” the father of four added, flanked by his lawyer.

As is customary, the Crown has not explained why it dropped charges.

A core group of six suspects still face charges relating to an alleged plot to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto. But there has been a general diminishment in the allegations – only 12 of the 18 suspects rounded up in the summer of 2006 currently look to be headed to trial. Charges against three young offenders were dropped months ago.

The training camp allegation by the Crown has suffered in recent months. A police informant who helped lead training has said there was less to the camp and some of the suspects who attended it than meets the eye.

Recently, the Crown has made public a videotaped speech from the week-long camp, where a ringleader urged them to band together and fight for Islam. Defence lawyers have countered however it was an amateurish exercise and suggest many attendees were lured to the camp without knowing its true purpose.

On Tuesday, Mr. Jamal and his lawyer called for a public inquiry into his case, including the 13 months he was held in solitary confinement before he was released on bail last fall.

”I've been tortured, I've been racially profiled because I was older, I was abused” Mr. Jamal said. ”...I was beaten, I was kicked. I was pushed by the guards. ... They thought I was responsible.”