NATIONAL

Loose talk hastens a terror trial

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI October 8 2007
NATIONAL

Loose talk hastens a terror trial

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI October 8 2007

Loose talk hastens a terror trial

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI

The prosecutors will never say it publicly—not yet, at least—but Mubin Shaikh is not the star witness they were hoping for. The Toronto-born Muslim, who famously spied on a group of alleged terrorists at the behest of CSIS and the RCMP, is a tad too outspoken for the government’s liking. Since his targets were arrested in June 2006, Shaikh has accused the Mounties of stiffing him out of money, told reporters that some of the 18 suspects are innocent, and admitted to Maclean’s that he snorted cocaine on the taxpayers’ dime. No matter how hard his police handlers try to keep him quiet, Shaikh keeps on talking.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it was Shaikh sitting on the witness stand last week when Crown attorneys took the unusual step of “preferring a direct indictment,” a legal tactic that allows the prosecution to abruptly cancel a preliminary hearing and go directly to trial. Such indictments are rarely issued—let alone at the exact moment when defence lawyers are grilling the state’s celebrity witness. “I only cross-examined him for an hour and a half,” says Michael Moon, who represents one of the suspects. “And it was clear to me that the government’s case was going to be in an awful lot of trouble.”

What Shaikh said cannot be repeated due to a publication ban. But there is no doubt that his words have already helped some of the accused terrorists he was paid to bring down. Earlier this year, after he testified at a preliminary hearing for the four youths arrested in the raids, the feds dropped all charges against three of them. Defence lawyers are convinced that a few of the 14 adults were about to enjoy the same freedom, thanks in large part to Shaikh’s testimony. Not anymore. If those men are innocent, they must now wait at least another year to prove it to a jury.

In the meantime, Ottawa isn’t talking. The attorney general’s office refuses to reveal why it chose to scrap the preliminary hearing at such a crucial time. Surprisingly enough, Mubin Shaikh isn’t talking, either. M