Momin Khawaja

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Mohammad Momin Khawaja (born April 14, 1979, Ottawa) is a Canadian found guilty of involvement in a plot to plant fertilizer bombs in the United Kingdom; while working as a software engineer under contract to the Foreign Affairs department in 2004 became the first person charged and found guilty under the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act following assertions that he communicated with British Islamists plotting a bomb attack.[1] On March 12, 2009, Khawaja was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison and was eligible for parole five years into the prison term.[2] On December 17, 2010, Khawaja's sentence was increased to life imprisonment by the Ontario Court of Appeals.[3]

Momin Khawaja denies the charges and affirms that he is innocent and a victim of a racist and biased Canadian Government that is holding him and his whole family hostage.

Personal life[edit]

Born to Pakistani immigrants Azra and Mahboob who had moved to Canada in 1967, Khawaja lived in Saudi Arabia with his family from the ages of 9-14 before moving back to Ottawa, where he attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School and graduated in January 1998.

Following graduation, he entered a 3-year computer program at Algonquin College, and became more religious and began teaching youth at the Cumberland mosque. His April 2001 graduation led to a placement in the Gatineau office of HRDC.

In January 2002, Khawaja took a 3-month trip to stay with his uncle in Pakistan while looking for a potential wife. It was later alleged that this trip had been meant to join the Taliban.[4] Upon returning unsuccessful, he took a job as a contracted software developer for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In summer 2003, the 22-year old Momin Khawaja, computer scientist-programmer with no previous criminal background began visiting paintball and pellet gun ranges with friends, signing in at the desk with pseudonyms. One friend, Younes Lasfar asked Khawaja to store two rifles and some ammunition at his house, and Khawaja agreed but licensed guns were just part of a hobby and nothing more. In July, he is alleged to have gone to participate to a remote village one-day camp in Pakistan's FATA region, along with another friend and reportedly fired a gun in the air.[5]

In a culture of anti-war atmosphere throughout the Western world and in other developing parts of the world, the US and Canadian intelligence apparatus were desperate to find people of interest and to entrap them via hired agents of influence overseas. The US arranged this entrapment through Mohammad Junaid Babur, who became the chief prosecutor witness in the case. There is ample hard evidence to support this concern with reference to the Canadian Intelligence agencies explains Faisal Kutty, a prominent lawyer from Toronto.[6]

During this time, Khawaja also began corresponding with Zeba Khan after reading her articles on the internet, and arranged to once again travel to Pakistan to meet her, going out to dinner with her and Babur. On October 29, Khan announced that she was engaged to Khawaja, though later the couple decide to cancel the marriage but remain friends.

Issues and Appeal[edit]

Lawrence Greenspon, Khawaja’s lawyer, said a major problem comes when police launch investigations into whether someone might be a terrorist simply because of their religious or political beliefs. However, Federal prosecutor Nick Devlin argued that people don’t develop prejudices against members of particular religions because of Criminal Code provisions such as the motive clause, which doesn’t mention Muslims or any other group by name.[7]

“It is completely neutral,“ Devlin told the court. “This legislation would apply to someone who bombed Dr. (Henry) Morgentaler’s (abortion) clinic for some unknown reason It would apply to (Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVeigh. It would apply to Islamic extremists.“[8]

The Canadian Government appealed the sentencing, asking for a longer sentence.[3][9] The Supreme Court reviewed the Khawaja case to examine the constitutionality of the definition of "terrorist activity" in the criminal code. However, there is no evidence to support the view that Supreme Court Appeal offered any valid definition of the term “terrorism” to imply to the case of Momin Khawaja as reference point. The notion of law and justice appears to have been left to an open clause using “suspicion” as the code of law. In the absence of tangible evidence uncalled by the Supreme Court, the outcome of the appeal was left to the conjecture of the individual and collective opinions of the higher court judges. During the appeal hearing in June 2012, there were varied opinions and concerns expressed about the term “terrorism” and its application to the case of Momin Khawaja. It is not clear how all the respective judges approached the ultimate consensus to deliver the sentence of Life and 24 years whereas, the original evidence-based sentence was meant to relate to the defined charges, that is a total of 10.5 and five years for parole eligibility. The main issue focuses on what's called the motive clause, which states that terrorist activity is that committed, "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause." At Khawaja’s trial, Justice Douglas Rutherford ruled that the motive provision was unconstitutional, but still ordered the trial to proceed.[7]

Based on all the available evidence, Momin Khawaja was a terrorist suspect and not a terrorist by any of the accounts presented during the trial. Momin Khawaja's trial and conviction were based on issues related to criminal activities except one – the alleged making of the ‘device’ – the cell phone jammer. The trial judge or the Appeal hearing courts including the Supreme Court could not come up to any known jurisprudence-based consensus to provide a valid definition of the term "terrorism."

Ironically, bulks of the accusations were based on circumstantial evidence showing events actors – made to depict the accusations having been used to enhance the prosecutions case. For 5 years Momin Khawaja was kept in prison without bail and the Government wanted to hold a secret trial in the interest of the National Security. > Ref see Colin Freeze, >”Suspect's bid to see secret evidence stalls” The Globe and Mail: May 8, 2007: “Judge rules RCMP may have to reveal only part of censored information to Khawaja's defence team.” See > SEAN MCKIBBON > COURT BUREAU> Ottawa Sun> Khawaja team gets 67 secret docs, > (May 19, 2007).

With the legal communities challenging the Government stance, it turned out that there was no hard evidence to try Momin Khawaja in a public court. The prosecution used his e-mails (the only so called hard evidence), discovered out of the computer of his girl friend Zeba Khan.[10]

There was no tangible evidence to prove that Momin Khawaja was ever involved in any "jihad" activities or had any relations to the presumed activities of the alleged Khyam group in UK. Time and again the prosecution wanted to paint a hypothetical picture of events and theories which would substantiate the legal argument and create an image of constant fear-mongering to the public interest. Time and again, the prosecution focused on his e-mails as the basis of their argument and re-asserted demands for harsh sentence by the higher courts. Mr. Lawrence Greenspon, the Defense Team argued that “Momin Khawaja could be wrongfully imprisoned for life if the government insists on withholding classified information it admits is relevant to his defence against terrorism charges, his lawyer argued before the Federal Court of Appeal.” > Ref Ian Macleod > “Khawaja at risk of being wrongly convicted: lawyer.” > The Ottawa Citizen May 17, 2007.

– While growing up as a student in school and college, Momin Khawaja had excellent upbringing and participation in voluntary community work. During the 2003-2004, across North America and West Europe there were huge public outrage and well organized rallies against the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Momin Khawaja as computer specialist was inspired by the prevalent culture of public anti-war sentiments. Although the prosecution would not admit but many of his emails and statements embodied in the e-mails are directly taken out of the material available on the internet and extracted even exact words and phrases on the on-going wars and "jihad" which the prosecution presented in the court. See Ref > Chris Cobb > Khawaja Finally gets his day in court” > The Ottawa Citizen > April 5, 2008: > “Mr. Khawaja, said to be shocked by a recent unexplained decision to place him in solitary confinement, sat motionless and expressionless for most of the hour-long hearing yesterday.”

– The prosecution alleges that Momin Khawaja gave money to Khyam group but according to the defense lawyer this money (based on the email record) was meant and sent to Afghan displaced women-children charity fund. He is alleged to have designed a remote device referred to as the “hifidigimonster”, in fact, it was a cell phone jammer designed and modified and readily available kit from the electronic stores. The prosecution displayed it in the trial but the device did not work as alleged, therefore, the prosecution could not prove the charges. Momin Khawaja was acquitted by the trial judge of the focal charges of the case in “terrorism”- involvement in the London plan.

- The trial judge sentenced Momin Khawaja to 10.5 and 5 years for parole eligibility. He was not given the time credit for 5 years already served in incarceration.

– The appellant traveled to Pakistan alone where once he met Mohammad Junaid Babur. He offered to make his parents’ home in Pakistan available to the “bros” but it was never done or utilized. The prosecution failed to show if Momin Khawaja was involved in any violence or acts of violence against anybody either in Canada or elsewhere which should have supported the charge of "terrorism."

– On March 29, 2004, the RCMP arrested the appellant and searched his parents house in Orleans, Ottawa. They seized the “hifidigimonster”, electronic components and devices, parts suitable for constructing more remote arming devices, documents corroborating the assembly process for the device, 2-3 licensed rifles and ammunition, hard drives, $10,300 in one-hundred dollar bills-money from his brother without any search warrant, educational books and jihad-related informative material. There was no material evidence discovered related to the 'bomb-making.' [11]

In the end the Supreme Court upheld the previous appeal of the Ontario High Court and sentenced Momin Khawaja to a Life and 24 years with 10 years for parole eligibility. Ironically, the appeal was heard to question the unfair sentence of Life-24 by the Ontario High Court appeal. There was no logical and legal basis to sentence him to a life and 24 years comparing to the trial judge who gave him 10.5 years and 5 years for parole eligibility. The case clearly demonstrated a biased and unfair verdict because Momin Khawaja belongs to a visible minority in Canada and the outcome of the case was obviously influenced by the political culture of the country and active news media propaganda against Muslims to be branded as "terrorist' even though they have not committed any crime. Across North America and West Europe, a separate ‘legal system” is developed to imply the term ‘terrorism’ only to Muslims, explains Glenn Greenwald (“New York Top Court Highlights the Meaningless Menace of the Term ‘Terrorism’.” The Guardian and Information Clearing House: 12/17/2013.[12]

Momin Khawaja was the first Canadian to be charged with Terrorism. It is widely perceived in the public conscious and as the Defense Team made it clear after the Supreme Court Appeal in December 2012 that the final outcome was not based on the evidence and charges of the actual case but it was delivered out of the nowhere to convict Momin Khawaja for unknown reasons. This concern demonstrates clearly out of the remarks of the conscientious judges during the appeal hearing at the Supreme Court in June 2012. To recap the important points of the case:

Momin Khawaja was acquitted by the trial judge of “terrorism” in the UK involvement - the focal point of the case but sentenced to 10.5 years – 5 years parole eligibility on accusations lacking tangible evidence except the emails representing the Thought Crime, not the actual crime. The higher appeal courts extended the sentence without any evidence to life and 24 years along with racially biased remarks. The original trail charges specified the charges of: (1) contributing approximately $900. to an Afghanistan displaced women-children charity fund in Pakistan, (2) attended one day camp in Pakistan (3) to offer the use of his parents house in Pakistan but it never happened; and (4) to make- re-program a cell phone jammer device readily available from the market (the prosecution alleged it a ‘bomb making’ device but could not prove it). It is hard to imagine any “terrorism” impulse or activities in the above noted criminal acts happened overseas except the cell phone jammer in Canada. Legally and from the perspective of conventional wisdom and justice, it is questionable how could he be sentenced to a Life and 24 years under terrorism? What was the so-called “terrorist” crime that he committed and deserved this slow death punishment? Even the Supreme Court judges asked the prosecution: “why Momin Khawaja should be sentenced to a life-24 years when he is not charged with the crime nor did he commit it.” [13]

M Momin Khawaja is current being held prisoner/hostage at the Special Handling Unit at Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines Prison in Quebec near Montreal. He has been there since 2009 and has been kept in segregation.

In January 15, 2012, Momin Khawaja was abruptly attacked by another inmate with boiling water at the high security prison Ste. Anne des Plaines, Quebec. According to the media reports, 60-70% of his body was severely burnt with life-threatening injuries. He was taken to emergency hospital and remained under treatment for some time. But the scars and impact of the attack effected him psychological and physically.

A fellew inmate Ali Mohamed Dirie had warned Momin that agents working for CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) were trying to incite other Muslim inmates to commit acts of violence and using coercion to get youth in the Muslim community to join jihadist organizations.