Cablegate: First Toronto Terrorism Trial Starts
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHON #0085/01 0861854
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261854Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2408
INFO RUCNCAN/ALCAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0052
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
RUEPINS/HQ BICE INTEL WASHINGTON DC
RHFJUSC/HQS US CUSTOMS SERVICE WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 000085
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PTER CA
SUBJECT: First Toronto Terrorism Trial Starts
Ref: (A) 06 Ottawa 1711 (notal) (B) 06 Toronto 1636 (notal)
(C) 06 Toronto 2138 (notal) (D) 07 Toronto 132 (notal)
(E) 07 Toronto 139 (notal)
TORONTO 00000085 001.4 OF 002
Sensitive But Unclassified - protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On March 25 the trial of one of the 18 persons
originally arrested for participating in a Toronto-based terrorist
group began in a provincial courtroom in the Greater Toronto Area
(GTA). On the first day of the first trial, an Ontario Superior
Court judge unsealed some prosecution documents. The prosecution
has asked for a publication ban on some of the evidence while media
lawyers are arguing that the trials should be open to the public.
Major Canadian dailies today reported new "shocking and sensational"
details of the alleged plot. Canadian law enforcement officials and
prosecutors are very carefully handling this first case to be tried
under Canada's post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation. The trials of
the other 14 accused terror group members will not begin before the
fall. END SUMMARY.
The First Terror Plot Trial
2. (U) On March 25, almost two years after police arrested 18
alleged "homegrown terrorists" in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in
the summer of 2006, the trial for one of the youngest accused, who
was age 18 when arrested, began in a local provincial court. At the
time of the arrests, Toronto-area press reported that the group
planned to construct truck bombs targeting the Toronto offices of
the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation, the Toronto Stock Exchange, a Canadian
Forces base, and the CSIS and RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. The
press reported that the group also planned to storm Parliament Hill
in Ottawa, taking Members of Parliament hostage, and beheading them
if Canadian armed forces did not leave Afghanistan. A publication
ban had effectively prevented public release of further details of
the group's activities or plans.
3. (U) On the first day of the first trial, an Ontario Superior
Court judge unsealed prosecution documents including a summary of
the evidence that the accused participated in and contributed to the
activity of a terrorist group. The first of the group to be tried
is accused of attending a training camp from December 18 - 31, 2005,
during which he was "present for terrorist indoctrination, wore
hooded camouflage and participated in various military-style
exercises including marching, obstacle course training and firearms
training," according to prosecution documents. The prosecution
alleges group members engaged in "Jihadist discussions" and "viewed
videos of an extremist and violent nature." The young man, who is
now 20 years old pleaded not guilty in the first trial for anyone
charged under Canada's 2001 Anti-terrorism Act, which was enacted
after the 9/11 attacks.
4. (U) The prosecution claims the accused man participated in a
second camping excursion with some of the other accused in May of
2006, which prosecutors claim is indicative of "his ongoing
commitment." The accused was arrested and charged with stealing
walkie-talkies and outdoor utensils for a training camp from a
Canadian Tire store in February 2006, under orders from the group
according to prosecutors. When the accused was subsequently
arrested during the massive police sweep on June 2, 2006,
investigators searched his home and allegedly seized "military
camouflage and computer files depicting graphic war-like propaganda,
including photographs of paramilitary training camps, coalition
casualties, and infamous terrorists such as Osama bin Laden." The
judge is expected to begin hearing evidence in the case on May 27.
Prosecution Seeks Publication Ban
5. (U) On March 25 the judge issued an interim ruling allowing the
media to report on the proceedings without identifying the adults.
Before the trial begins hearing evidence, the presiding judge must
rule on a prosecution motion seeking a partial publication ban that
would prohibit reporting the identities of the adults accused of
belonging to the Toronto 18 (Note: 14 men and four youths were
charged in 2006 with belonging to the al-Quaeda inspired cell;
judges subsequently stayed the charges of three of the teens while
the 14 adults are still awaiting trial - four on bail and 10 in
jail. End Note).
6. (U) The prosecution asked for the publication ban because much of
TORONTO 00000085 002.4 OF 002
the evidence in this trial will overlap with evidence in the trials
of the other 14 accused terrorists, arguing that repeated and
sustained exposure of the public to some of the evidence risks the
adults' right to a fair trial. A lawyer representing media outlets
argued against the ban because the proceedings are in a public
courtroom and transparency is especially important since this is the
first trial for anyone charged under the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act.
Canadian Press Report New Terror Plot Details
7. (U) Major Canadian dailies today reported the "shocking and
sensational" details of the alleged plot. Prosecution documents
reportedly contain transcripts of wiretaps and videotapes that
include one conversation depicting the group's ambitions: "They're
probably expecting what happened in London or something," he said.
"... Some bombing in a subway kills 10 people and everybody gets
deported. We're not doing that. ... So our thing it's, it's much,
much greater on a scale ... you do it once and you make sure they
can never recover again."
8. (U) In arguing for a publication ban, prosecutors said the
evidence of these violent schemes and aspirations are so disturbing
they could prejudice the future trials of the 14 adults who are also
charged with belonging to this group. In response to concerns
raised by prosecutors and defense lawyers, the judge banned the
publication of any names (ref (E)) and a small portion of the
allegations. The Toronto Star today reported that the prosecution
evidence will include:
--Videos of terrorist indoctrination, in which the accused are
exhorted to wage battle in the new empire of "Rome" in North
America, "whether we get arrested, whether we get killed."
--Wiretap surveillance in which they discuss their desire to
"establish the religion of Allah and to get rid of the oppressors"
and the need for funds to finance their goals of building a "team"
to "go make an attack."
--Discussion that the construction of a "radio frequency
remote-control detonator" needed to be improved because its range
was only 30 feet.
--Allegations the accused attended two training camps where they
practiced military-style exercises in camouflage gear, undertook
firearms training with a 9-mm firearm, donned camouflage clothing,
and made a propaganda-style video of their military drills.
9. (SBU) COMMENT: Canadian law enforcement officials and
prosecutors have very carefully handled this first case to be tried
under the new anti-terrorism legislation. We understand that the
adults may be tried in two groups - the eight men who were involved
in the bomb plot; and the remaining six men who reportedly were only
involved in the training camp. Before the adult trials start,
judges will have to decide whether to provide additional financial
support for Canadian Legal Aid, which has appealed for significant
additional funding to handle the complicated cases, and how to
handle evidence obtained by CSIS. We do not expect the (likely) two
adult trials to start before this fall. We expect the trials to
take years, with defense lawyers challenging the constitutionality
of the charges. END COMMENT.