THE zeal with which the RCMP went after Dr. Khurram Syed Sher, 32, of London, Ontario, in the so-called Project Samosa and all the allegations that they made public against him all came to naught when he was found not guilty of conspiring to facilitate terrorism.
The case became even more sensationalized because Sher,a medical graduate from Montreal’s McGill University, once moonwalked during an audition for Canadian Idol in Montreal in 2008, telling judges that he was from Pakistan and was a fan of hockey, music and acting. While his dancing was considered good, his singing – an off-tune rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” – was judged bad.
Sher and two others were arrested in August 2010 as part of an alleged Ottawa terror cell that was involved in constructing improvised explosive devices – the kind used to kill soldiers in Afghanistan – and that they had collected schematics, videos, books, and other material used to build the bombs, according to police.
Police said at the time that they also seized “terrorist literature” and more than 50 electrical circuit boards that would have been used to detonate the devices from a distance.
Back in 2010, the RCMP and CSIS said they had monitored the group for a year as part of Project Samosa.
“This group posed a real and serious threat to the citizens of Canada’s national capital region,” Supt. Serge Therriault, head of criminal operations for RCMP’s A Division, told a news conference in Ottawa.
He said investigators decided to arrest them now to prevent them from sending money to their alleged international allies abroad to purchase weapons and other material that would have been used against Canadian and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Police alleged that three other individuals were also involved in the conspiracy to knowingly facilitate terrorist activities as were other persons at home and “in Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan.”
The Globe and Mail reported earlier this year that an affidavit filed by the RCMP in the Federal Court of Canada stated that some of the information came from the FBI and Britain’s London Metropolitan Police. The federal government applied under the Canada Evidence Act to blank out portions of thousands of documents disclosed to defence counsel on the argument that revealing that information would be injurious to national security, international relations or national defence.
At the trial, federal lawyers said that Sher agreed with two others to raise money and send it out of Canada, undergo paramilitary training, make and use explosive devices and look for targets in this country.
The Globe and Mail reported that prosecutors played parts of audio, that was at times sketchy, from electronic surveillance of a July 20, 2010, meeting in Ottawa between Sher and the two co-accused. But defence said that it was just a friendly dinner while Sher was on his way from Montreal to his new job in southern Ontario.
Sher testified that he did not believe in violence, but in giving back to the community.
OUTSIDE the court, the defence lawyer told the media: “It’s pretty emotional and it’s going to take [Sher] a while to let it sink in and then he can move on finally with his life.”
He added: “I think the next step is to decompress, get his life together, spend some quality time with his family.”
He noted: “[Sher’s] been under very stringent bail conditions for four years and they have now been lifted, they fall way with this verdict, and I think he’s going to start to figure out what his next plans are now finally he’s got an opportunity to make some plans in his life after four years”
He said: ‘The judge’s ruling is very nuanced, it’s very well reasoned, and he makes specific findings that Appeal judges rarely reverse.”
The Crown prosecutor told the media: “Of course, we have the greatest respect for the court’s decision which was thorough and considered all the issues. It’s a disappointing result, needless to say. If you paid close attention to the decision you will see that [the judge] disbelieved almost everything that Sher said in his testimony.”
He added: “He was left in a reasonable doubt about whether he sincerely intended to join the terrorist group and that is the crime to have a sincere intention to join a terrorist group. And so while he said he intended to join, he never actually followed up on that in the remainder of the investigation, and so that left [the judge] in some doubt.”
He said: “We are going to review the reasons which were lengthy and well considered and we will determine whether or not there are any grounds for appeal.”
(Photo: Khurram Syed Sher auditioning for Canadian Idol TV show.)