Graeme Hamilton, National Post Published: Friday, February 20, 2009
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Mike McLaughlin/Canwest News ServiceCourtroom sketches of suspected terrorist Said Namouh. The Quebec man is accused of preparing and distributing jihadist propaganda.
Courtroom sketches of suspected terrorist Said Namouh. The Quebec man is accused of preparing and distributing jihadist propaganda.Mike McLaughlin/Canwest News ServiceCourtroom sketches of suspected terrorist Said Namouh. The Quebec man is accused of preparing and distributing jihadist propaganda.
MONTREAL — The videos found on Said Namouh’s computer when police raided his Quebec apartment in 2007 are brutal: point-blank executions of Westerners, suicide bombings, a charred soldier’s body dragged through the street in celebration. Others offered tips on bomb-making or threatened Western governments over the presence of troops in Afghanistan.
Over the past three weeks, a Quebec court has heard that Mr. Namouh worked tirelessly to ensure these images were widely available on the Internet to the global jihadi community, in some cases doing the editing and adding subtitles himself. Mr. Namouh’s work showed that he had “devoted his life to spreading the ideology of al-Qaeda and encouraging others to join the jihadist movement,” said Rita Katz, a Crown expert at the terrorism trial. What Quebec Court Judge Claude Leblond will have to establish is whether those actions contravened Canada’s Criminal Code.
His defence lawyer, René Duval, is not contesting that Mr. Namouh was the user named Ashraf, who was so active on online jihadi forums that he earned praise for his “good work in the service of the [Global Islamic Media] Front, jihad and the mujahedeen.” But Mr. Duval argues that what his client did, while perhaps repugnant to some, was simply an exercise of his freedoms of expression and religion. “Where do you draw the line?” he asked outside the court.
Evidence before the court shows that Mr. Namouh was driven by a fervent faith, one that saw as enemies Christians, Jews and even Muslims who did not share a desire for the creation of pan-Islamic rule.
“I write to you my loved ones with tears falling from the intensity of my love to our mujahedeen protectors, and in hatred of the Crusaders and Shi’a and apostates,” Mr. Namouh wrote in 2006 on a password-protected, invitation-only online message board known as Khidemat.
From the time Mr. Namouh joined the Khidemat forum in November, 2006, to his arrest in September, 2007, he had become the second-most active participant, Ms. Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence group, a U.S. company that monitors online terrorist activity, testified. The forum appears to have been used exclusively by members of the Global Islamic Media Front, a jihadist propaganda wing. Ms. Katz, appearing as an expert witness for the Crown, testified that Mr. Namouh was part of the front’s “uploading and downloading brigade,” establishing Internet links so that people around the world could watch propaganda videos on their computers or cellphones.
She said evidence recovered from his computer hard drive showed that he was responsible for creating links to publicize a March, 2007, video warning the governments of Germany and Austria that they would suffer terrorist attacks if their troops were not withdrawn from Afghanistan. He provided art for a May, 2007, communiqué by the Army of Islam, claiming responsibility for the kidnapping in Gaza of BBC reporter Alan Johnston and demanding the release of prisoners, Ms. Katz said. He also made available propaganda videos with such titles as Jihad Academy and Top Ten, glorifying insurgent attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, 2007, he announced on the forum that he had created his own compilation video of attacks in Iraq, a 50-minute film known as Final 1000.
“I worked for more than 50 hours in creating the publication, in which I slept only 5 hours,” he wrote on Khidemat. He apologized for the quality of the production, saying he lacked experience in editing and was limited because his computer was not very powerful.
The court has also heard that in August, 2007, Mr. Namouh’s Internet chats were intercepted, revealing what police believe were plans to explode a truck bomb at an undisclosed location outside Canada.
“I have the information and experience for acquisition of explosives in a country and the way to have them easily,” he said on Aug. 8. Later he was overheard discussing plans to travel to North Africa and saying, “Terrorism is in our blood, and with it we will drown the unjust.”
Mr. Namouh faces charges of conspiracy, participating in the activities of a terrorist group, facilitating terrorist activity and extortion.
Mr. Duval said the trial is a crucial test of Canadian anti-terrorism law. “I question whether the fact of providing [Internet] links, especially when one is motivated by religious belief, is a violation of the Criminal Code,” he said in an interview. He said that even though the beliefs of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are “repugnant to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, still, are they not religious beliefs? A lot turns on that.”
Ms. Katz maintains that Internet jihadi propaganda is not just a matter of expressing one’s beliefs but an active effort to “indoctrinate, recruit and train followers.” In a report submitted to the court, another Crown expert, Reuven Paz, stated that the Global Islamic Media Front is at the forefront of these activities.
Its “independent media efforts amplify the extent and effect of terrorist propaganda by repackaging it into more sophisticated productions and disseminating them to the spectrum of jihadi forums,” he wrote.
The trial continues next week.
But wait there’s more!
The same defence was used in Sweden a few years ago in a similar case, in which an Islamic mosque in Sweden was caught selling anti-Semitic tapes that called Jews: “apes and pigs, cursing them and calling for Jihad against them, emphasising particularly that suicide bombing is a very effective weapon against them.” Swedish Chancellor of Justice, Göran Lambertz, stated in his defence in dismissing the case that:
“These statements should be differently judged and considered to be allowed/legitimate, because they are used by one party in an ongoing deep conflict where battle cries and defamation are contained as everyday elements in the rhetoric around the conflict“.
According to Ilya Meyer who closely followed the case, the Chancellor never had all of the facts before he made the decision to dismiss the case:
“The flagrantly anti-Semitic texts from the Stockholm mosque were never fully translated in writing for his examination; instead he received a verbal translation through the services of an interpreter, and this verbal translation was more in the nature of a summary of the contents. Yet the Chancellor writes: “There is furthermore no reason for me to review my decision as long as such re-examination would concern the same material.” The question is: what material would this be? The Chancellor, after all, admits he has none.”
The Swedish “Chancellor of Justice” knew all along that there were more flagrant, anti-Semitic tapes available at the mosque, but chose not to review them. Such is the justice system in Sweden, hopefully in Quebec Canada, Göran Lambert’s retarded dhimmi verdict will not be duplicated. KGS