May 26th, 2024

Defence lawyer for accused in terrorism case wants charges stayed due to court delays

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press on April 15, 2024.

The lawyer for a Calgary man accused of committing terrorism offences over a decade ago argues charges should be stayed because of court delays. The Calgary Courts Centre is pictured in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – The lawyer for a Calgary man accused of committing terrorism offences over a decade ago argues charges should be stayed because of court delays.

Jamal Borhot, 34, faces three terrorism charges stemming from alleged activity in Syria in 2013 and 2014.

The charges were laid in September 2020, but the case has languished in the courts ever since.

Borhot’s trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.

The case has been delayed over disclosure of evidence, two changes of lawyers and the cancellation of trial dates set for 2022 and 2023, along with lengthy Federal Court proceedings.

Defence lawyer Pawel Milczarek has filed an application to drop all Borhot’s charges because the case did not meet time limits set by the Supreme Court of Canada in the landmark R. v. Jordan decision in 2016.

He said his client’s Charter rights have been violated because the case has taken too long to get from the laying of charges to the expected conclusion of the trial.

The Jordan ruling said people charged with an offence are entitled to have their cases tried within 18 months in provincial courts and 30 months in superior courts unless the delays are caused by exceptional circumstances.

“It was really what was happening behind the scenes, or really not happening behind the scenes, that led to the impact of that process on the trial dates,” Milczarek argued Monday.

“All of these so-called complexity issues are a red herring. They don’t cause a delay here.”

But Crown prosecutor Domenic Puglia told Alberta Court of King’s Bench Justice Corina Dario much of the holdup was due to defence actions and, under the Jordan rules, the case’s complexity allows for some leeway in calculating delay.

“If it is a complex case, then the 30-month ceiling will not apply. The Crown still has an obligation to show that it reasonably took what steps it could to move it forward through the court system, but it’s not tied to specific findings that you have to make of delay,” he said.

Borhot is accused of travelling to Syria with his cousin Hussein Borhot to fight for the Islamic State.

Hussein Borhot pleaded guilty to terrorism offences in 2022 and was handed a 12-year sentence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2024.

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