09/12/2011 02:20 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST

G20 conspiracy charges hearing begins

A preliminary hearing started Monday for 17 people charged with conspiracy before last year's G20 summit in Toronto.

The Crown alleges the group planned and organized protests that eventually turned violent during the two-day summit.

Most of the 17 defendants were arrested the morning of June 26, 2010, the first day of the summit. No rioting or vandalism had happened at that point.

CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp covered Monday’s hearing. A publication ban prohibits the CBC from reporting anything said during the proceedings.

"All 17 of the accused lined up along one side of the courtroom,” Reddekopp reported. “Then in the middle of the room are all their lawyers. Sitting at big desks, they take up almost the whole courtroom.

“The media has to sit at the front, where normally the jury would sit.”

Extra room needed for spectators

Extra security staff were on hand, Reddekopp reported, and an overflow room with a large video screen was set up because of space constraints in the courtroom.

Alex Hundert, who faces the most charges and is one of the alleged ringleaders, says he and the other defendants aren't criminals.

"It is obvious that what this case is about is the Crown and the police's attempt to shut down people's right and ability to organize in their own communities and to express public dissent," Hundert said outside court.

Eleven weeks have been set aside for the preliminary hearing. The trial is expected to begin next year.

Assistant Crown lawyer Jason Miller says the courtroom may be full for the proceedings, but it makes sense to have all the accused in one hearing.

"It's definitely a better use of resources," he said. "Otherwise we'd be calling the same evidence two, three times in separate hearings."