Canada Saw Plot to Seize Officials
By ANTHONY DePALMA
Published: June 7, 2006
BRAMPTON, Ontario, June 6 — Prosecutors here assert that some of the men
charged in a terror plot last week planned a series of violent attacks that
included seizing Parliament and beheading Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
other lawmakers if Canadian troops were not withdrawn from Afghanistan, a
defense lawyer said in court Tuesday.
The accusations were part of a government summary that was given to a lawyer
for one of the suspects and other defense lawyers just before preliminary
hearings began. The document was not made public, but the lawyer disclosed
part of its content because he said he wanted to force the government to
disclose its evidence.
Jim Leising, the government prosecutor in the terror case, did not comment
on the accusations in the summary.
The new accusations, if true, would disclose a startling new aspect of the
case against 12 Muslim men and 5 youths. Previously, investigators have said
only that the men intended to use homemade explosives to bomb unidentified
targets in southern Ontario.
Although they expressed doubts about the capacity of the suspects to pull
off such bold attacks, Canadians, in interviews with various news outlets,
said the latest disclosures only heightened their current alarm about the
possibility of violence by homegrown terrorists.
"Canadians have to understand and appreciate that we are citizens of a world
where danger is everywhere," Peter Van Loan, a member of Parliament from
Ontario, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "We're not exempt from
that, much as we might wish we were."
More than 100 journalists gathered outside the A. Grenville and William
Davis Courthouse on Tuesday morning as 10 of the 12 men accused in the
terrorist plot appeared in court for preliminary hearings. They were
handcuffed and wore white T-shirts and gray prison pants. The five who have
been charged as minors also appeared.
All the suspects asked for bail proceedings to be postponed while their
lawyers prepared their defense. The bail hearings are not expected to be
held for several weeks.
In the Canadian court system, prosecutors in major cases present evidence at
the bail hearing as they argue against suspects being released on bail.
Two suspects did not appear in court because they are already serving prison
sentences for trying to bring guns into Canada illegally.
Several lawyers complained that extraordinary security had prevented them
from speaking to their clients in private. The men, all residents of Canada,
have been held in isolation at a maximum-security prison since shortly after
they were arrested over the weekend. They have been prohibited from talking
to their families or one another.
According to court documents, all have been charged with belonging to a
terrorist group. Six are accused of plotting to bomb several unidentified
buildings in Canada. Others are charged with running training camps,
receiving terrorist training and trying to smuggle weapons across the border
from the United States.
On Tuesday, there were details for the first time about another reported
plan for an attack, this one intended to cripple Canada's government and
disrupt its economy. Gary Batasar, the lawyer for one of the suspects who
read the accusations in court, said that if prosecutors were going to make
such claims they should disclose their evidence so defense lawyers can
Mr. Batasar said he read the accusations for the first time when he received
the government summary on Tuesday morning. He said one page of the
eight-page document referred specifically to his client, Steven Vikash Chand,
25, of Toronto. Mr. Chand, who appeared in court with long black hair and a
full beard, listened intently to the accusations against him, then rolled
Mr. Chand is charged with belonging to a terrorist group and recruiting and
training people to join the group. He is not charged with participating in
the bomb plot.
Another suspect, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, is the eldest of the men and is
considered by the authorities to be their leader. Mr. Jamal, one of those
charged with planning the bombings, could be seen directing one of the
lawyers to ask the judge for special medical attention for the youth the
Mr. Batasar said the government papers laid out a plot to storm the Gothic
Revival buildings of Parliament in Ottawa and take hostages. The hostages
would be beheaded if the terrorists' demands that Canadian troops to be
pulled out of Afghanistan were not met.
Mr. Chand was said to have remarked that he would "personally like to behead
Prime Minister Stephen Harper," Mr. Batasar said. The document also said the
men intended to attack power lines and news media offices, including the CBC
building in Toronto.
Mr. Harper, in the main Parliament building, took the threat in stride. "I
can live with these threats, as long as they're not from my caucus," he told
Jack Layton, an opposition leader in Parliament, said the terror
investigation had turned up nothing to convince him that it is time to
severely restrict access to government buildings or "turn an accessible
institution of democracy into a bunker."
Security at Parliament Hill in Ottawa has been tightened since 9/11, but
pedestrians still can walk up to most of the buildings without passing
through security gates.
Investigators have said little about the evidence they have gathered against
the suspects. At a news briefing on Saturday they showed a computer tower, a
crude cellphone detonator and other electronic equipment they had seized.
They also showed a bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that they said was
like the three tons of material the suspects had planned to use to make
American officials, who have acknowledged being involved in the yearlong
investigation, said Canadian authorities had monitored Internet chat rooms,
e-mail messages and telephone conversations to learn of the activities of
Christopher Mason and David Staba contributed reporting for this article
from Brampton, and Ian Austen from Ottawa.