Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Creating Terrorism

Canada's current, sensational "Paintball 18" case of alleged terrorism continues to look more and more like the Project Thread fiasco (outlined in my previous post). It looks less like a (gasp) sleeper cell every day, and more like an excuse to create headlines.

Police mole paints altered picture at terror trial
Crown will have a tough time arguing campers were serious threat

June 17, 2008
Thomas Walkom
Toronto Star

Alter the perspective and everything changes. In the first full-fledged trial coming out of the case of the Toronto 18, the Crown is arguing that a youth (who cannot be named) participated in a "shocking and sensational" terrorist plot "to cause harm and death by attacking innocent lives."

But in a Brampton courtroom yesterday, RCMP informer Mubin Shaikh – the government's star witness – acknowledged that while this particular youth may have been an unsuccessful shoplifter (he was caught – twice), he knew nothing about alleged schemes to blow up buildings or behead politicians.

Rather, Shaikh said, he knew the young man as a quiet, shy, considerate teenager – a recent convert to Islam – who wanted to please the alleged ringleaders of the alleged plot but who, in the main, was just trying to fit in.

And he described the antics of those attending a Washago training camp as a comedy of errors, where the alleged jihadis melted holes in the soles of their running shoes, locked one vehicle's keys in the car, almost set a sleeping bag on fire and – instead of keeping a low profile – did doughnuts in a Canadian Tire parking lot.

This is the same Mubin Shaikh who said last week that this alleged training camp was actually quite serious and not just an exercise in "picking daisies."

But that was when he was being questioned by Crown prosecutor John Neander.

Yesterday, under questioning from defence lawyer Mitchell Chernovsky, Shaikh agreed that, really, nothing much happened during the December 2005 camping trip.

He said a recorded lecture on jihad played to the group of teens and young men was so boring that some dozed off.

He said the so-called military training consisted of getting the campers to march up and down a road to keep warm.

He said that when an illegal handgun was used for target practice, the youthful campers were "freaked out" by the noise.

He agreed that the campers wore camouflage outfits mainly to protect their clothes during paintball games.

Last week, Shaikh testified that one of the alleged ringleaders gave a long allegorical speech in which he spoke of the need for Muslims to bring down "Rome" – which the RCMP informer said was a reference to the U.S.

Yesterday, Shaikh acknowledged that many of those present – including the person now on trial – wouldn't have a had a clue what the speech meant.

And he summed up the Washago adventure with these words: "Nobody knew what they were doing ... Idiocy seemed to be a constant theme."

For the man on trial, now 20, this may be crucial evidence.

The Crown argues that his actions, including shoplifting, were part of a conscious effort to support terrorism.

But Shaikh described the youth as someone who was never told anything about anything and who was valued by the so-called ringleaders mainly because he worked hard.

By way of contrast, Shaikh has maintained that the ringleaders themselves were trying, in their own inept way, to concoct a dangerous plot.

That theory will be tested when the remaining 10 adults who still face charges come to trial – probably some time next year.

But when that does happen the Crown may find it difficult to argue that an enterprise described in part by their own star witness yesterday as "idiocy" represented a serious terrorist threat.

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