Supreme Court upholds Canada's anti-terror law
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 7:21AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 10:58AM EST
The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down the appeal from convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja, effectively reinforcing Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, while also upholding the extradition orders against two other accused terrorists wanted in the U.S.
The court ruled Friday that the terrorism provisions of the Criminal Code do not violate the Charter of Rights' provisions protecting freedom of expression.
Khawaja, a former Ottawa software engineer, was arrested in 2004 and was the first person charged under Canada’s anti-terror laws, which passed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks against the United States.
Khawaja was convicted in 2008 for participating in, contributing to, financing and facilitating a group of U.K.-based Islamist extremists engaged in a plot to bomb London, England.
He was found to have trained at a remote terror camp in Pakistan, providing cash to the group of British extremists, as well as offering them lodging and other assistance. He was also convicted of two offences related to building a remote-control device to set off explosions.
He is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
The court also upheld a 2010 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that increased Khawaja’s original 10-and-a-half-year sentence to a life sentence, saying the sentence effectively denunciates terrorism.
Also Friday, the Supreme Court decided not to strike down the extradition orders against two accused terrorists, Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah.
They are facing charges in the U.S. of supporting the Tamil Tigers, a banned terrorist group. Their arrests followed a joint investigation by the FBI and the RCMP into an alleged plot to buy weapons, launder money through front charities and smuggle equipment to the rebel group, which has been fighting for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka.
All three men argued that the Criminal Code's definition of terrorism infringed their Charter right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression and the terror laws were too broad.
The court disagreed, saying threats of vilence fall outside the scope of the freedom of expression guarantee.
“"Threats of violence, like violence, undermine the rule of law," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote on behalf of the court in the Khawaja case. "Threats of violence take away free choice and undermine freedom of action. They undermine the very values and social conditions that are necessary for the continued existence of freedom of expression."
A number of civil liberty groups intervened in the case and denounced some of the terror laws as being so broad and intrusive that they put innocent political activists at risk. The court said such activists are still protected
“Social and professional contact with terrorists — for example, such as occurs in normal interactions with friends and family members — will not, absent the specific intent to enhance the abilities of a terrorist group, permit a conviction,” it said.