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Should mentally ill man be branded a terrorist for attacking Canadian soldiers?

April 2018

Re: “A matter that matters” (Michelle Mandel, Toronto Sun, 21 April), the one aspect of this case of Avanle Hassan Ali that really jumped out at me is the conclusions of the examining psychiatrists, that being, “The doctors concluded his delusions and psychosis left him unable to realize his actions were morally wrong.”

Ali is the Muslim immigrant who is accused of attacking and stabbing soldiers at a Toronto military recruitment centre in March of 2016.  He was found fit to stand trial, but his lawyers are arguing that Ali should be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness for attempted murder, assault with a weapon and the rest of the secondary offences.

Ali’s lawyers also want the terrorism charges police laid withdrawn.

I’m sure that Superior Court Judge Ian MacDonnell is considering all aspects of this case, but we can’t escape one very important aspect of this case:  terrorism and terrorist acts aren’t morally acceptable in western liberal democracies, under any circumstances.

This presents quite the quandary as how can we find someone not criminally responsible for an action his perverted view of Islam finds quite acceptable. In his mind, he was doing the work of Allah.

Ali does suffer from schizophrenia, but as a Muslim extremist, he wouldn’t have cared about our morals and laws. To a Muslim extremist, it’s his duty to kill as many infidels he can for Allah. Ali even told forensic psychiatrists that he wanted to be a martyr.

Justice MacDonnell has a difficult decision to make, but I submit that in this particular case, does it really matter if Ali is mentally ill or not? He’s clearly dangerous and given his actions that day, we can’t ignore what he was trying to accomplish. He should be found guilty of terrorism charges.

That said, he shouldn’t be denied any mercy, which can come in the sentencing phase. If he needs treatment for mental illness, he can get it in prison.


The original Toronto Sun article:

MANDEL: Should mentally ill man be branded a terrorist for attacking Canadian soldiers?

The judge on what may be a precedent-setting terror case admits he’s been handed quite a legal quandary.

Lawyers for Ayanle Hassan Ali want the mentally ill man who attacked three soldiers inside a North York recruiting centre two years ago acquitted on charges he was acting for the benefit of a terrorist group.

Find him not criminally responsible (NCR) for attempted murder, assault with a weapon and the rest of the secondary offences – but scrub the terror part of the indictment.

He wasn’t a terrorist; he was sick, argued lawyer Nader Hassan. And, he added, you can’t be a terror group of one.

Surely NCR is NCR, whether it’s for attempted murder alone or attempted murder on behalf of a terror group? Isn’t the end result the same — that Ali, who suffers from schizophrenia, will be held in a secure psychiatric facility until an Ontario Review Board determines he no longer poses a threat to society?

Not at all, argued the defence lawyer. No one has ever been found NCR on terror charges.

“We don’t know how the (Ontario Review) Board is going to treat someone found NCR on terrorism,” he told the judge Friday. “And secondly, it’s a point of principle.”

Superior Court Justice Ian MacDonnell seemed to agree.

“The stigma of being NCR on a terrorism charge may be a matter that matters a great deal,” he mused. “It could have real life consequences down the road.”

The March 14, 2016, attack lasted less than a minute.

Ali burst into the Canadian Forces office with a large kitchen knife. He punched and slashed one soldier, narrowly missed slicing the neck of another, and tried to repeatedly stab a third in the head and torso with the wrong end of his weapon before he was subdued.

When arrested, witnesses described him as incoherent, alternating between laughing uncontrollably, muttering a prayer or making guttural sounds. He told a paramedic Allah had sent him “to kill people.” He told forensic psychiatrists who later examined him that soldiers were a “legitimate target” and he wanted to be a martyr.

The doctors concluded his delusions and psychosis left him unable to realize his actions were morally wrong.

Ali has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a weapon, two counts of assault causing bodily harm and one count of carrying a weapon for the purpose of committing an offence, all “for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group.”

The Crown wants him found NCR on the entire indictment, terror charges and all.

“It’s important to the public,” argued prosecutor Sarah Egan, “that the verdict rendered reflects that he did act as a terrorist group of one who wanted to kill soldiers for an ideological reason.”

That terrorism section of the criminal code doesn’t apply to someone who was acting on his own, countered Hasan.

“It’s a difficult issue,” said MacDonnell. “It will require a bit of time to sort out.”

The judge is set to release his decision May 14.

Sources:  http://torontosun.com/news/local-news/mandel-should-mentally-ill-man-be-branded-a-terrorist-for-attacking-canadian-soldiers,

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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