Former Canadian Idol contestant’s dinner chat moves from ice cream to ‘violent jihad’ on secret tapes, terrorism trial hears ~ Chris Cobb, Postmedia News February 11, 2014
|Note the Zebibah (prayer bump)|
OTTAWA — In a secretly-recorded conversation played publicly for the first time Tuesday, accused terrorism collaborator Khurram Sher discusses bomb making and appears to suggest a repatriation ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Trenton as a possible target.
The conversation between the 31-year-old Montreal-born pathologist and two alleged co-conspirators then turns to their bearded appearances, which brings a suggestion from Dr. Sher that they might shave and “wear Canadian colours.” To which one of his alleged co-conspirators responds: “We’ll break their backs in their own country.”
During the July 20, 2010 conversation, recorded by the RCMP using microphones hidden in the apartment where the trio met, Dr. Sher also speaks of the ease with which he could buy components for bomb making.
“I can just go to, like, a hardware store and buy a few things to build a bomb. I’m sure it’s possible.”
Crown prosecutor Jason Wakely had told the court earlier that the conversation shows that Dr. Sher and his alleged associates were bent on “violent jihad.”
Dr. Sher is pleading not guilty to conspiring with two others to facilitate a terrorist activity, which police have alleged also involved a possible bomb attack in the Ottawa area. His trial in an Ottawa courtroom began Monday.
The hour-long conversation played with a written transcript displayed on TV and computer screens takes place during a dinner and starts with a mundane exchange about the food, the benefits of gluten-free products and the merits of President’s Choice ice cream. One of the three reads the list of ingredients from the ice cream package.
The banter is often lighthearted and peppered with laughter.
After dinner, the conversation turns more political with talk of Afghanistan, Islam and secure ways of communicating.
Dr. Sher, father of three daughters, says relatively little but does mention sending money to the others and using email, “better not to be tracked.”
He speaks briefly about going to Pakistan in 2005 to help victims of the deadly earthquake and coincidentally meeting a man he spoke to about “training.”
One of his alleged co-conspirators mentions that he had thought of fighting in Russia with Chechnya rebels.
After dinner, one of the alleged co-conspirators suggests forming a “group” to work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
It isn’t until the early hours of the morning that talk casually turns to CFB Trenton, and the ceremonies to mark the return of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as a possible target.
About another 15 minutes of the tape remains to be played. Some of the transcript was translated from Arabic.
The translation, and the prosecution’s version of who said what during dinner and afterwards, are expected to form a crucial part of the defence case.
Mr. Wakely earlier alleged that the group Dr. Sher and the two others formed was a formal pro-jihad association called a Jamaa or group, or company.
He also alleges that Dr. Sher contributed money — at least $1,000 — in support of Afghanistan’s Mujahedeen, comprising groups closely associated with radical Islam.
That money, and other contributions gathered by the group, was allegedly intended to fund the purchase of weapons for Afghan insurgents.
The prosecutor also alleges that during his visit to Pakistan the man Dr. Sher met and asked about military training was a Taliban member.
Mr. Wakely told the court that the alleged terrorist plot was an Ottawa-based operation with alleged co-conspirators taking precautions to avoid detection by using public pay phones, coded language on cellphones, and assumed names on email address which they accessed only at the Ottawa Public Library.
Included in the prosecution case are 96 phone intercepts, 24 Internet intercepts and 33 emails.
According to Mr. Wakely, police secretly went to one of the alleged co-conspirator’s apartments and replaced 56 circuit boards with harmless replicas.
He said other bomb paraphernalia and an instruction booklet found in the apartment pointed to a plan to make and remotely explode bombs.
No such materials were found in Dr. Sher’s London, Ont., home and his lawyer, Michael Edelson, objected to Mr. Wakely associating his client with efforts to avoid surveillance.
The trial continues Wednesday.