Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ok, so we nailed the ants, but what about the termites

Not very far away from where I live is one of the busiest criminal courthouses in all of Ontario. As the spring gives way to summer this courthouse is the venue of a trial that is one of the most bizarre in modern Canadian history, the trial of several male youths and adults who are charged with a conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism in the name of Allah.

They are known to the media as the “Toronto 18”, and their names are under a publication ban. Most, if not all of them, don’t actually live in Toronto. They live in Mississauga, a large suburb to the west of the city, which is why they are being tried in this courthouse and not one in Toronto.

And they are no longer 18 in number. Charges against 7 of them have been stayed and those persons have been freed. Staying charges is not the same as dropping them. They can be reactivated if new evidence should be revealed.

They are called the Toronto 18 because their main targets were in Toronto, specifically the headquarters building of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Toronto offices of the Canadian anti-spy/terrorist agency, CSIS. They are located close to each other in a very busy part of downtown Toronto.

The allegation are that they planned to load a truck with a bomb and blow up these buildings with the intention of killing the maximum number of people (like the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing). Given the population of the buildings in question and the pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area, the number of potential victims could exceed those in 9/11, depending on the time and day in the week and the size of the bomb.

They are also alleged to have had some vague plan to storm the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and behead Canada’s Prime Minister, the leader of the Conservative Party. So far no evidence has been adduced that they are members of the Liberal Party of Canada, but the trial is still in early days.

Yesterday, the prosecutions key witness, a paid informant who infiltrated the group, was on the witness stand for the first time. He testified about attending a terrorist training camp in northern Ontario and about some of the activities carried on there. For a full rendition of his testimony, as it appeared in the Toronto Star, go to this site.

One of the interesting things he brought out was that the group made a video of their training efforts to impress the leadership in Afghanistan (presumably the Taliban leadership) and some imams in Toronto that the group’s leader believed were sympathetic to their activities. It is not the video per se that is interesting, it is the notion that imams in Toronto would encourage this kind of thing.

When this trial is over, and assuming the charges stick and the defendants are found guilty, the public should demand to know what action is being taken against religious leaders who would be sympathetic to a home-grown group of Muslim terrorists. The Toronto 18 are only the ants running around on the tree bark. You have to go under the bark to dig out the termites if you want to save the tree.

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