Couple guilty of murder conspiracy for terror plot of B.C. legislature
By Geordon Omand for The Canadian PressNews Public Sector
A British Columbia couple has been found guilty of conspiring to commit murder in a terror plot involving a foiled attempt to bomb the provincial legislature.
But the conviction was put on hold while defence lawyers argue that their clients were entrapped in an elaborate police sting operation that led to their arrest.
The jury also found John Nuttall and Amanda Korody guilty of possessing an explosive substance and placing an explosive in a public place, both on behalf of a terrorist group.
As the verdict was read out, Nuttall made a heart shape with his fingers directed at Korody.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Crown lawyer Peter Eccles said he was pleased with the hard work by the jury.
He denied suggestions from defence lawyers that Nuttall and Korody were manipulated by the RCMP into committing the crime, describing the officer’s actions as “good, old-fashioned police work.”
“My relief is the same at the end of any trial,” said Eccles. “The trial is finished, the jury is able to do their job and they’re able to render a true verdict.”
Nuttall’s lawyer Marilyn Sandford said her client is “very disappointed” with the verdict but that Nuttall understands many important issues in the case have yet to be decided.
“We say the police manufactured this crime and that’s not permissible in our law,” said Sandford.
She argued that the police themselves had committed crimes in the process of staging the undercover operation.
“They were involved in exactly the same activities to a large extent that our clients were,” she said.
Sandford also took issue with spiritual advice provided by undercover officers, advice she said was designed to encourage Nuttall and Korody to commit crimes.
Korody’s lawyer Mark Jette alleged police violated his client’s charter rights and said he would argue both entrapment and abuse of process. He said Korody is disappointed in the immediate aftermath of the verdict but that she is prepared for the next step.
The next stage will involve hearing testimony from senior RCMP officials who were involved behind the scenes in orchestrating the operation, the defence lawyers said.
“What undercover operators do on the front lines is… directed and controlled and there’s a lot of discussion that happens in the background before these operations unfold,” Jette said.
“I’m not going to get into the details but we’re going to hear a lot more about that.”
In an emailed statement, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney commended the police and applauded the jury for reaching a guilty verdict.
“This case serves as a stark reminder that the threat of jihadi terrorism is real and Canadians must remain vigilant,” said Blaney in the statement. “We cannot protect Canada or our communities by simply choosing to ignore this threat.”
Nuttall and Korody both face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The jury began deliberating behind closed doors on Sunday morning after hearing more than four months of testimony.
The couple was arrested on July 1, 2013, the day they were accused of planted three pressure-cooker bombs on the grounds of the legislature. The police had ensured the bombs were inert.
Covert recordings were taken of Nuttall and Korody at home, during meetings in various hotel rooms and while driving around with undercover officers. One video appeared to depict the two hiding their faces with scarves and filming a jihadist video they planned to release after their attack.
The Crown alleged the couple used what they believed were authentic al-Qaida connections to arm bombs brimming with deadly metal shrapnel. Police had ensured the bombs wouldn’t explode.
The court watched covert video footage showing Nuttall and Korody planting the bombs beneath decorative bushes flanking the B.C. legislature early Canada Day morning.
Recordings played in court showed the pair saying they believed killing women and children was acceptable so long as they weren’t explicitly targeted in the attack but rather died as collateral damage.
At numerous points in the surveillance recordings Nuttall could be heard describing the Boston Marathon bombing as inspirational but also amateurish, and that he hoped his attack would kill hundreds.
In its cross-examination of the Crown’s witnesses, the defence offered an alternative interpretation of events, highlighting what they characterized as the heavy-handed role played by the police in guiding Nuttall and Korody throughout the undercover investigation.
Neither of the accused testified in court.
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