iddie-porn charges have been dropped against a Muslim preacher, with a judge ruling that “threats and intimidation” by CSIS agents railroaded the man into handing over evidence.
In 2007, Brampton's Ayad Mejid had had enough of a long-standing Canadian Security Intelligence Service investigation. Targeted as a suspected supporter of terrorism, he lent his laptop to authorities to try to prove his innocence. CSIS agents who searched the laptop without a warrant passed it to Toronto Police detectives, who in turn arrested Mr. Mejid. Police alleged that they found child-pornography images inside.
On Wednesday, on the eve of a long-delayed trial, a court ruled that any Crown evidence against Mr. Mejid was moot. Faulting CSIS for being beyond aggressive, Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly tossed the case.
“The intrusion into Mr. Mejid's computer on the basis of consent obtained by threats and coercion was not merely technical in nature or the result of an understandable mistake,” Judge Kelly found. “Simply put, it was produced under compulsion.”
The written decision says CSIS spent years targeting Mr. Mejid, convincing him to take a polygraph test, threatening to expose an alleged extramarital affair, and directing law-enforcement agencies to search for porn on his computers. Prior to his handing over his laptop, CSIS agents told him his “life would change” if he did not co-operate.
“The CSIS conduct in seizing and searching Mr. Mejid’s computer in the circumstances of false misrepresentations is reprehensible,” Judge Kelly wrote.
Anser Farooq, Mr. Mejid’s lawyer, said his client has always denied links to terrorism or perusing child pornography. “He's said from day one, ‘This was not mine.’ ”
Unlike police or judges, CSIS agents lack powers to arrest or compel testimony. So the spies use whatever leverage they can exert to get people to speak to any potential acts of terrorism.
The more dogged the line of inquiry, the more exposed the spy service is to complaints from immigrants and immigrant communities. Yet given how CSIS tries to stay out of court, it’s rare for any judge to endorse such complaints.
CSIS agents began zeroing in on Mr. Mejid in 2003, amid suspicions he had a hand in starting an Internet outfit known as the Global Islamic Media Forum. GIMF attracts Islamists whose posts can glorify terrorism – not a crime in Canada. Some GIMF members in Canada and Austria have been recently convicted of plotting terrorist attacks.
Prior to the laptop incident, Mr. Mejid allowed CSIS to snoop inside his computers on several occasions. He even consented to a polygraph, which CSIS maintained he flunked.
Throughout, the Iraqi-born immigrant denied links to terrorism. After handing over his laptop in 2007, he found himself also denying a child-pornography rap. In an interview following his arrest, Mr. Mejid told The Globe and Mail he had never even heard of pedophilia before his run-ins with CSIS. “I didn't know there are some sick people like that,” he said at the time. “I didn't know there was this situation [that] some people like kids.”
With all the evidence tossed, the courts will no longer determine who is culpable for the obscene material.
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