Tuesday, May 20, 2008

“Toronto 18”: Home-Grown Terrorism by the Canadian Government

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

One of the largest counter-terrorism raids in North America took place in Ontario starting in June of 2006. The excessively brutal operation employed over 400 heavily armed police and security forces dressed in commando-style uniforms, and ended with the arrests of 13 men and 5 teenagers. The youngest was 15 and the oldest 43, while most were under 25. All were Muslim.

The Canadian spy agency CSIS and the RCMP leaked reports to the press, and wild accusations were reported that a homegrown radical Islamic terrorist cell had been conducting “jihadist-training camps” in Ontario, and was plotting to storm government buildings, take hostages, behead leaders and detonate bombs. Security forces assured us that the powers granted under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act (warrantless arrests, unconstitutional monitoring, preventive detention) had been critical to avoiding a major terror attack, while Canada’s Minister of Public Safety warned that there were “more jihadists out there”. While not a single accusation was proven, editorials nationwide called for a 5-year extension of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, coincidentally set to expire within weeks of the raids.

Last September, just as a preliminary hearing was underway where the credibility of the case would have been determined; the prosecution suddenly (and oddly) stopped the proceedings. Instead, a publication ban was imposed and the case was ordered directly to trial. This means the public will not learn the truth about the accused or the actions of their accusers until the trials are completed, possibly in the year 2014 or later.

However, what is public knowledge is troubling enough to demand a complete public investigation. All of the accused have had their basic legal and human rights violated, including their Charter right to be informed of their offences, their right of reasonable bail and their right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment. Most of the accused have been kept in solitary confinement for longer than what is humanely allowed, and most have reported systematic abuse and assault by their jailors.

The initiating factor for the surveillance of the eighteen had been the monitoring of Internet chat sites. It should be noted here that many of the accused were vocal critics of Canadian foreign policy, as are most Canadians. Two years of thorough CSIS and RCMP surveillance did not turn up anything to warrant arrests. However, the planting of two paid informants among the Muslim men by Canadian security agencies suddenly provided the “evidence” needed. One of the informants was paid $370,000 for a year’s work, and the second was paid $4,000,000.

The only physical evidence in the case, the 3 metric tons of fertilizer purportedly to be used for bomb making, was ordered by the CSIS informant and paid for by the RCMP. In fact, it was during the cross-examination of one of these informants that the preliminary hearing was suddenly and suspiciously shut down by the government lawyers.

At the time of the writing of this article, three of the youth and four adults no longer face charges, including 43-year old Qayyum Abdul Jamal who was first identified as the “Islamic firebrand” leading the young plotters. As the government case unravels, and the “Terror 18” shrinks to the terrorized 11, two other recent cases should be remembered. Project Thread in 2003 and Operation Shock in 2001 where mass arrests of Muslims and Arabs were politically motivated round-ups, targeting innocent people based solely on ‘racial profiling’.

At the end of the day, the political gain from the arrest of the “Terror 18” for Canada’s governing elite was the opportunity for the encouragement of domestic racism and Islamophobia, which was needed to extend Canada’s oppressive Anti-Terrorism Law. The fall-out for ordinary people is the continuing destruction of civil liberties, allowing for the crackdown on legitimate dissent and the creation of a climate of fear and terror.

The response for Canadians must be to demand open and fair proceedings for all the accused, a removal of those still in solitary confinement, a complete public investigation into the case and a repealing of the brutal Anti-Terror legislation that allowed the government to carry out this act of terror. ∗

Father of one of the accused headed to court next to machine gun totting cops