Wednesday, November 05, 2008

“Terrorist” or Scapegoat? Youth Set Up, Convicted of Terrorism Charges

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan Basics #11 (November 2008)

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Canada just convicted its first “terrorist” in September, and there will likely be more to come. The twenty-year-old man (who was seventeen at the time of his arrest and cannot be named) never endangered anyone’s life, never damaged any property, never made or used explosives, never used a weapon, did not produce any terrorist plans and did not even know about any specific terror plot. However, he did get caught red-handed shoplifting. He was also a Muslim convert.

So how was the youth convicted on charges of terrorism? It was done by altering the whole criminal justice system through new legislation (Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act), which was zealously passed after 9/11 and renewed shortly after the dramatic arrest of the convicted youth and 17 other Muslim boys and men in June of 2006 (the widely sensationalized and discussed ‘Toronto 18’). The Act created an entirely new category of criminal (“the terrorist”) whose crimes are motivated for religious or political reasons, and so requires investigation into the intention of the suspect, who he associates with and what he believes in. Such a directive is inherently prejudicial in application and promotes racist profiling. In addition, the new law also broadly defines what a “terrorist group” is, so less evidence is needed of any offence by the group and proof as flimsy as planning or even discussion of certain actions becomes the basis for conviction. This is particularly troubling because of the role played by two paid government informants in the ‘Toronto 18’ group, including the purchasing and storing of the alleged bomb making material, and possibly entrapping and encouraging the 18 arrested. These two rats were collectively paid over 4 million dollars for their “public service”!

Prosecutors were able to get a successful conviction simply because the judge believed a terrorist conspiracy existed and the youth happened to attend two camps with the alleged “conspirators”. It is sort of like guilt by association, except that the “conspirators” themselves have not been convicted of any crime.

The conviction of the youth is just another example of Canada legislating and legalizing state terror against Arab and Muslim communities, whether it’s security certificates that allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, facilitated torture of citizens in foreign prisons, hyper surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities, hundreds of illegal detentions of Muslims and Arabs on a daily basis, or Canada’s murderous contributions in war in Afghanistan. This terror conviction, and the mass arrest of the ‘Toronto 18’ over two years ago, have and will continue to serve as justification for these various attacks on Muslim people, at home and abroad.

Ten of the eighteen arrested in 2006 remain in jail awaiting trial, and three of those men continue to be brutally held in solitary confinement since that time! The lawyers of the convicted youth plan to appeal the terror ruling in December. Regardless of the outcome, the current conviction has served to amplify fear in Muslim, Arab and other vulnerable communities – who fear the real terror that will be unleashed by Canadian security agencies invigorated by their first successful terrorist conviction.