Last week, Justice Catherine Bruce, a judge from British Columbia, made history in Canada and in North America in general. She ruled that John Nutall and Amanda Korody, two Canadian convicted on terrorism charges, were instead entrapped by the RCMP. What was called in the media as the Victoria bomb plot, was rather a pure creation of the 240 RCMP agents who were paid in almost one million dollars in overtime money. Both defence lawyers of Nutall and Korody and Justice Bruce named it: "manufactured crime."
The unusual factor here isn't that entrapment was used, but the decision of the judge to accept it as one.
In fact, in 2014, Human Rights Watch released a report named: "US: Terrorism Prosecution Often an Illusion." The document closely examined 27 federal "terrorist" cases in the U.S. and showed how, among others methods, entrapment became a systematic tactic adopted by the federal American law enforcement agents to "create" terrorist plots and later "foil" them.
This was what the deputy director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report concluded:
"But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts."
Furthermore, the report points to the fact that "nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot."
More recently, it was revealed that Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Florida, was also a subject of an entrapment attempt by the FBI in 2013.
According to the media reports, Mateen "did not bite" and then was let go by the federal police. How did Mateen come to their attention? Did they decide to "lure" him because they already knew of his mental health issues, of his desperation? That is unclear.
In Canada, no such an investigations were conducted to determine the role of police forces play in terrorist plots. From media reports, it seems there is always an informant involved in most of the high-profile Canadian terrorists plots: the Toronto 18, and the Via Rail plot.
Even in the recent arrest of the Larmond twin brothers from Ottawa, both accused of wanting to join the ISIL, an informant had been paid $550,000 by the RCMP to befriend the suspects and another additional $250,000 was paid to him to testify for preliminary hearings that never happened.
In the current international context of terrorism, these convictions fit very well with the fear narrative that our civilization is threatened by "Islamic terrorism."
In the case of the Via Rail plot, not only was an informant used to encourage the accused to move on and act upon their ideas, but it is worth noting that one of the accused, Chiheb Esseghaier, has mental health issues and the other accused has financial problems. These two facts are not random, they are crucial elements especially since it was mentioned in the Human Rights Report: "The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent."
John Nuttal and Amanda Korody were clearly vulnerable people. They were struggling with drug addiction and were on social assistance. Chiheb Esseghaier was another vulnerable person. Dr. Lisa Ramshaw, a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed him and watched him closely concluded that he suffered from psychotic disorder, most likely schizophrenic.
However, the federal judge, Michael Code, rejected the argument that Esseghaier wasn't criminally responsible for his actions due to mental illness, and consequently, Chiheb Esseghaeir and his co-accused were convicted with life sentences without parole.
In the current international context of terrorism, these convictions fit very well with the fear narrative that our civilization is threatened by "Islamic terrorism." That the justice system would always try to be on the safe side and not order the release of people even if there is evidence that they wouldn't have committed the crime without the entrapment.
The mere thoughts and talk of waging "Jihad" combined with the presence of an informant who incited and even provided material support came to be accepted as enough evidence for a terrorism conviction. With Bill C-51, or the Anti Terrorism Act 2015, the threshold for those sort of convictions have even been lowered, since thoughts and talk about promoting terrorism are enough to consider you as a terrorist.
The ongoing silence of the Liberal government regarding Bill C-51 is an implicit acceptance of what the previous government achieved in silencing, among others, freedom of expression under the name of national security.
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