The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled Friday that the country’s anti-terror law is constitutional in a series of decisions that affirm how terrorism is defined in the Criminal Code.
The court in a 7-0 ruling rejected constitutional challenges brought by three men, including Momin Khawaja, the first person charged under the anti-terror law that was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Khawaja was convicted of collaborating with a group of Britons in a thwarted 2004 bomb plot in London.
The rulings also upheld the extradition order against Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah. Both men can now be sent to the U.S. to face charges of supporting the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lanka group vying to establish an independent ethnic Tamil state, which many have called a terrorist organization. U.S. prosecutors allege the two men tried to purchase $1 million worth of guns and rockets for the group.
All three men are Canadian.
The court rejected constitutional challenges brought by the men, dismissing arguments that the anti-terror law was too broad, criminalized harmless activity and violated the charter guarantee of freedom of expression.
The ruling essentially means the anti-terror law contains no rights violations and doesn’t have to be changed.
Khawaja’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said he was extremely disappointed with the ruling. He said it wouldn’t mean an end to the unfair targeting of ethnic or religious groups by authorities.
“There are just too many instances recently where persons have been investigated and prosecuted and where those investigations commenced as a result of political, religious or ideological beliefs,” he said outside the courtroom.
Khawaja was convicted of training at a remote camp in Pakistan, providing cash to a group of British extremists and building a remote-control detonator.
The court dismissed the argument that the anti-terror law was too broad in its definition of terrorism and could ensnare innocent people.
“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,” the ruling said.
The court also dismissed Khawaja’s claim that he was taking part in an armed conflict and should be exempt from being charged under international law. It rejected his contention that he didn’t recognize the threat posed by the British terrorist organization, the Khyam group.
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