What we know and don’t know about the alleged Kingston terrorist plot

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The city of Kingston, Ont., is still reeling after a young person was charged with terrorism-related offences following thousands of hours of investigation by multiple police agencies and raids on two homes. 

Here is what we know (and much of what we don’t) about the case.

What is the young person actually charged with?

Police have laid two charges against the young person, who is accused of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity and counselling another person to « deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or other lethal device … against a place of public use with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury. »

« It’s interesting to me what they didn’t charge [the youth] with, » Leah West, who practices national security law and previously worked in the Justice Department’s national security litigation and advisory group, told CBC Radio’s The House.

« They didn’t charge him with S. 83.2, which requires affiliation with a terrorist group to be proven. Because there’s no reference to a terrorist group, that could tell me that perhaps they don’t think he’s associated with a group like ISIS, or they believe he may be self-radicalized or self-inspired. »

What did the alleged plot entail?

​During a press conference Friday, the RCMP said it received a « credible » tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in late December 2018 that there were individuals in Kingston planning a terrorist attack, which led to the police raids at two homes in the area Thursday.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told CBC News the alleged terrorist activity involved a plan to use an explosive device, but a specific target hadn’t been chosen yet.

Watch: security experts discuss Kingston investigation

Former CSIS senior strategic analyst Jessica Davis and former RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas joined Power & Politics to discuss the latest developments in the terrorism investigation in Kingston, Ontario. 9:28

The source said the person or people involved had the intent, began acquiring the potential to create an improvised explosive device and formulated a plan, but the arrests came before a target had been chosen, the source said.

« There was no specific target identified but there was an attack planned, » RCMP Superintendent Peter Lambertucci told reporters.

After the arrests, the RCMP found « elements » and « trace elements » of homemade improvised explosive devices in an unspecified residence. The explosive substance was later neutralized, Lambertucci said.

What do we know about the suspect?

The identity of the accused has been withheld by police as the person is a minor and protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Because of that publication ban, little can be reported on about who the suspect is. Details about their family, which could reveal the identity of the subject, are also protected.

The person will be back in court on Monday.

A second individual, an adult male CBC News has identified as Hussam Eddin Alzahabi, was also arrested Thursday but has not been charged.

Police officers carry evidence from one of the homes in Kingston, Ont., that were raided. Two people were arrested and a minor has been charged with a terror-related offence. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Police described the relationship between Hussam Eddin Alzahabi and the person charged as an « informal friendship. »

Hussam’s lawyer, Mohamed El Rashidy, told CBC News that his client maintains his innocence and will continue to co-operate with the security services as the investigation unfolds. 

« He’s exercising his legal rights and he cares about Canada’s safety as much as the next person, » said El Rashidy. « He’s here studying, he’s doing everything that he can to be a contributing member to society and there is no reason to malign him or treat him differently than anybody else. »

Could there be more charges?

Former CSIS senior strategic analyst Jessica Davis said she wouldn’t be surprised if more charges were laid against other individuals as the investigation continues.

« What we know about terrorism in Canada is that individuals rarely act alone, » she told CBC’s Power & Politics. 

« They generally have people who they’re getting materials or financial support from or encouragement. » 

What was the motivation?

Despite repeated questions during Friday’s news conference, police would not comment on the ideological motivations of the people apprehended or say if they had any ties to foreign elements.

Davis said in order to lay the terrorism charge, officials would have had to have had a clear ideological link, so police are likely remaining silent because it relates to an ongoing investigation. 

« The individual would have had to been motivated by political, religious ideological considerations so they know what that is, » she said. 

« Whatever the motive is could tip off other individuals. »

Some of those details could come out when the case heads to trial and the Crown has to argue its case.

Was Kingston ever at risk?

While police believe an attack was considered imminent, officials maintain there was no credible threat to the people of Kingston.

RCMP officer Peter Lambertucci speaks to reporters in Kingston on Jan. 25, 2019. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

« I want to reassure the citizens of the greater Kingston, Ont., area and all Canadians that during the investigation, our primary focus was the safety and protection of the public, » said Michael LeSage, a chief superintendent with the RCMP’s « O » Division.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the operation has not changed the country’s threat level. It remains at « medium, » where it has hovered since late 2014.

« The number one sentiment that I’ve been hearing is that people are reassured. They feel that law enforcement has done a good job and are on top of the situation, » added Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Why is FINTRAC involved?

The RCMP said they were supported by both Kingston police and FBI officers with support from the Ontario Provincial Police, Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

That last agency stood out to some national security watchers.

As Canada’s financial intelligence wing, FINTRAC’s job is to detect, prevent and try to stop money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

It’s unclear at this time what role they played.

« The only reason that drew it to my mind would be if they were transferring money to an area that was flagged or receiving money that was flagged from an area that was of concern to FINTRAC or the banks, » said West.

West also pointed to CBSA’s shout-out in this probe as interesting, but it’s unclear what role they played.

Again, more details about the scope of the investigation are likely to trickle out in court as both sides build their arguments. 

Leah West discusses what the details of the investigation reveal. 9:43

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Kingston man says terror arrests over alleged bomb plot are ‘just allegations’

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KINGSTON—Hussam Alzahabi said he was at work near his home Thursday when suddenly police swarmed around him, yelling, and telling him that he was under arrest.

The 20-year-old says he was handcuffed and taken to the Kingston police station on Division Street, where he was held overnight in a cell.

At the same time, a teenager, whose gender was not released by police — Alzahabi said he was male — was charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity; and counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury. He cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Asked how he knew the minor who’s been charged, Alzahabi said he is “just a friend” and a former classmate.

“There was some accusation that I work for some terrorist group,” he said, sitting on a brown sofa in his family’s living room after his release from custody Friday afternoon. He looked tired. His father, Amin, sat on a flowered couch across from him and said he wanted his son to talk, so the public would know what happened and hear his perspective.

Investigators have not identified a specific target for the alleged plot and no bomb was ever planted, Lambertucci said.

But one individual was “believed to be building a homemade improvised explosive device,” said RCMP Cpl. Caroline Duval.

Labertucci said investigators confirmed that fact during a search of the teenager’s home, adding a potentially explosive substance was removed from the home and blown up Friday morning by the Kingston bomb squad.

“There were elements and trace elements, but I’m not prepared to speak on that with regard to the ongoing investigation,” Lambertucci said.

On Friday night, back home with his family, Alzahabi said he met the youth at school.

He said he was communicating with him, but said they didn’t do anything wrong, calling the arrests “just a misunderstanding” and “just accusations.”

Asked if the minor spoke about bombs, Alzahabi said he “talked a lot about that.” But Alzahabi said he never took him seriously and told him it was a bad idea to talk about things like that.

Now, back at his family’s home on a quiet residential Kingston street, he’s “worried about what will happen in the future.”

“Not for me, but for the whole Syrian people, because they will be affected,” he said.

The police still have his phone and laptops and are still investigating him, he added.

The family came to Canada about two years ago after fleeing war-torn Damascus for Kuwait. Their home in Syria has been destroyed. The father was once imprisoned for not joining the ruling political party and would be vulnerable to arrest and severe retaliation should he and the family return home, according to one of the churches that sponsored the refugee family.

They’ve been in Kingston for about one-and-a-half years, Alzahabi said.

Alzahabi said the police at the division treated him well, and gave him a sweater because he was cold.

Without laying charges, RCMP were required to release Alzahabi 24 hours after arrest, police said.

As Alzahabi described his last 24 hours, his father, Amin, looked on protectively. After Alzahabi went to bed, his father was eager to speak more about how he says his family was treated by officers who came to their home.

With the help of his younger son to translate, he expressed his outrage at how he says they stormed into his home and terrified his family.

He said he was shaken by the way officers, who he said were not wearing uniforms, rushed into his house with their guns and saw his wife without her hijab and stepped on the prayer mats, both of which, he said, are very upsetting to people of Muslim faith.

The RCMP said they started their investigation as soon as they received the tip from the FBI. Over the last few weeks, Kingston residents had started complaining over social media about the sounds of a low-flying plane, buzzing over their homes at night.

At the Friday news conference, Lambertucci confirmed the plane was part of the investigation and identified it as a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop operated by the RCMP.

Bronek Korczynski, who co-chaired the church committee behind the sponsorship, said he and other members of the four churches that brought the family to Canada were shocked by news of Hussam Alzahabi’s arrest.

“Even though our sponsorship ended last July, many of us in the group have maintained relationships with the family — meaningful relationships — and this is just a real body blow,” he said. “We’re just gobsmacked by this. It’s so out of whack with the family we’ve come to know and care for.”

Korczynski said he’d been at a meeting with Kingston police and RCMP on Friday morning, alongside other community leaders. Officers wanted to ensure the leaders had the answers they needed, and were able to continue providing services to the family and the broader community.

“It was very much an opportunity to say, ‘What can the community do to make sure that this doesn’t become an incident that unjustifiably targets any ethnic group, national group, religious group?’ ” he said.

He added that Alzahabi has both a younger and an older sibling, both of whom are dedicated to their education.

No other countries were involved in the alleged plot, and the FBI did not tell the RCMP about any U.S. connection, Lambertucci said.

Diane Smith-Merrill, who lives across the street from one of the Kingston homes raided Thursday, told the Star she heard sounds of a small explosion nearby early Friday morning.

“I shot right up out of bed,” she said.

Christian Matte, a Queen’s University student, was sitting inside the house across the street with his roommate Thursday when “we saw lights come on and there was already like 30 cops on the street, they all got out of their cars.”

Matte said the raid happened around 4 p.m. and there was “a plane flying over at night for the last few days.”

“It’s usually pretty quiet around here,” Matte said.

The FBI, Kingston police, OPP, Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada all took part. The RCMP said as many as 300 people were involved in the investigation.

Asked if this was a “lone wolf” plot or if the accused had ties to a larger group, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to delve into the details of the case.

“At this stage, the investigation is just beginning. As of this morning one set of charges were laid,” Goodale told reporters in Edmonton.

“The process is just too early to speculate,” Goodale added. “But police and security agencies are very clear that the situation has been neutralized, and (is) under control, and Canadians can be confident in Kingston and elsewhere across the country that they are indeed safe and secure.”

There has been no change to Canada’s threat level, Goodale said in an emailed statement to the Star on Thursday.

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the incident underscores the “critical importance” of having strong anti-terrorism laws and appropriate penalties for those found guilty of breaking them.

“It is also clear that Canada’s refugee-screening process needs to be seriously examined,” Scheer said. “We’ve recently learned of several examples of dangerous individuals entering the country, due, in part, to lax screening procedures.”

A senior national-security policing veteran warned against jumping to conclusions.

“We live in a fear-based society, that’s for sure. It’s partially a media construct and partially police and senior bureaucrats and politicians trying to get everyone afraid of ‘The Other.’

“Yes, there are some bad people out there,” said the officer. “I’m more concerned about some guy going crazy just because his girlfriend hurt his feelings than I am about some Syrian refugee kicking off.

“The world is changing and everyone’s afraid, but I just don’t think it should be the priority that it is.”

With files from The Canadian Press, Alex Boutilier, Alex Ballingall and Stephanie Marotta, Jacques Gallant, Mitch Potter and Moira Welsh

May Warren is a Toronto Star reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @maywarren11

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RCMP charges Kingston youth with terrorism-related offences over alleged bomb plot

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The RCMP announced Friday morning they have charged a youth with terrorism offences, alleging the minor attempted to get someone to conduct a bombing.

The charges follow a pair of arrests in Kingston on Thursday.

Police officers carry evidence after raiding a house in Kingston ON Thursday.
Police officers carry evidence after raiding a house in Kingston ON Thursday.  (Lars Hagberg / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The youth, whose gender was not released, has been charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity; and counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or other lethal device against a place of public use with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury.

The minor can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The RCMP said a second person, an adult man, has also been arrested but has not been charged.

Both were arrested as part of a national security investigation, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale confirmed Thursday.

Police are expected to update the public at a news conference in Kingston at 1 p.m.

The FBI, Kingston Police, OPP, Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada all took part in the investigation.

“I want to reassure the citizens of the greater Kingston, Ontario area and all Canadians, that during the investigation, our primary focus was the safety and protection of the public,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Michael LeSage, said in a news release.

“I would also like to highlight the efforts of our (Integrated National Security Enforcement Team) here in Ontario which worked diligently to obtain the evidence required for these charges. Investigations of this nature are complex and require significant time and resources to come to a successful conclusion, while ensuring public safety at all times.”

There has been no change to Canada’s threat level, Goodale said in an emailed statement to the Star on Thursday.

“Taking all relevant information into account, the official threat level for Canada remains at ‘medium,’ where it has stood since the fall of 2014,” Goodale said.

One woman, who said she witnessed the RCMP activity across the street from her residence, said she didn’t hear any police sirens.

“I think they went in and made the arrest quickly,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name. “They had a dog too. It looked like a German Shepherd. I saw it come out of the house.”

She said the residence police targeted is a semi-detached house.

MORE LATER

Patrick Ho is a rewrite editor working on the Star’s digital desk in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @patrick_ho_007

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Canadian sentenced to 40 years for ISIS plot to attack Times Square, subway

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A Canadian who confessed to plotting terrorist attacks in New York City for the so-called Islamic State was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years’ imprisonment.

U.S. prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, who pleaded guilty to working with ISIS to attack Times Square and the New York subway system.

The defence, meanwhile, had asked for leniency, depicting the 20-year-old as an isolated, mentally ill addict who, with treatment, could “grow old in peace in Canada.”


READ MORE:
He plotted to bomb Times Square for ISIS. Records show he’s mentally ill. Is he a terrorist?

 

 

The case combined many of the themes of contemporary terrorism: through social media, an ISIS member in Syria worked with a mentally unstable recruit to plot mass killings in the West.

The plot spanned four countries but the FBI successfully infiltrated it and arrested El Banhasawy in New Jersey in May 2016 following an undercover operation.

While he pleaded guilty to seven counts of terrorism, his family and lawyers said he had been in an out of treatment centres and blamed the undercover agent for contributing to his radicalization.

WATCH: Parents of Canadian caught in ISIS terror probe describe son’s history of mental illness and drug addiction






El Bahnasawy was born in Kuwait and moved to Ontario with his parents as a child. Beginning at age 14, his parents sent him to drug treatment centres in Kuwait, Toronto and Egypt.

Following his release from an Egyptian treatment program in 2015, he returned to Canada and became fixated with online Islamist extremism.

From his bedroom in his parents’ suburban Toronto home, he began corresponding with Abu Saad al-Sudani, a “high-level ISIS recruiter and attack planner” in Syria, according to prosecutors.


READ MORE:
Intelligence watchdog calls for more CSIS resources to tackle mental health links to terrorism

“He was exceptionally vulnerable to ISIS messaging,” his lawyers argued. “Isolated, he found a friend in the undercover agent, who praised his worst ideas and was instrumental in bringing them closer to reality.”

Prosecutors said the portrayal of Banhasawy as a vulnerable, weak victim “could not be further from the truth” and called him “dangerous and calculating,” with a “steadfast desire to kill.”

His alleged co-conspirators, Talha Haroon and Russell Salic, were arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines, while Sudani was killed in an airstrike.

Stewart.Bell@GlobalNews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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B.C. couple convicted in legislature bomb plot freed by Appeal Court

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B.C.’s Appeal Court has upheld a ruling that gave a couple convicted of planting explosive devices on the grounds of the legislature their freedom in 2016.

In a unanimous decision released Wednesday morning, the Appeal Court sided with a B.C. Supreme Court judge who stayed proceedings in the terrorism trial of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody on the grounds that the police investigation was a « travesty of justice. »

Nuttall and Korody were found guilty of terrorism offences in June 2015. (RCMP)

While the 141-page judgment faults Justice Catherine Bruce’s findings in a number of areas, the Appeal Court found that the RCMP may have been right to launch an undercover operation against the Surrey, B.C., couple — but they went « far beyond investigating a crime. »

« They pushed and pushed and pushed the two defendants to come up with a workable plan, » read the ruling, written by Justice Elizabeth Bennett and handed down in Vancouver.

« The police did everything necessary to facilitate the plan. »

‘Police do not have a free hand’: ruling

A jury convicted Nuttall, 44, and Korody, 35, of terrorism-related offences in 2015, but Bruce stayed proceedings on the grounds that police had entrapped the pair in an investigation that amounted to an abuse of process.

The two had been accused of plotting to plant pressure cooker bombs on the grounds of the provincial legislature in Victoria with the aim of murdering tourists during Canada Day festivities in 2013.

Bruce found that police did not have reasonable suspicion to start an investigation against the two after their initial inquiries following a complaint from a member of the public who claimed Nuttall had been espousing violent views at local mosques. 

The justice also found that police essentially directed the couple on how to commit the crime because they weren’t capable of figuring it out for themselves.

Nuttall and Korody embrace at B.C. Supreme Court after the judge stayed proceedings against them in July 2016. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The Appeal Court faulted Bruce on finding the RCMP lacked reasonable suspicion with regards to Nuttall and Korody, but said that, even so, the conduct of police in guiding the pair to the bomb plot would still constitute entrapment.

« Terrorism offences are some of the most serious crimes in our law, » the appeal judgment said.

« On the other hand, the police do not have a free hand to do whatever they wish in order to investigate crime, even serious crime. The concepts of fairness and justice are still highly relevant and police conduct undertaken in the investigation of crime must be balanced against them. »

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody listening in court as the judge stayed the proceeding in their terror trial, as depicted by a sketch artist. (Felicity Don/CBC)

The Appeal Court judges also faulted Bruce for directing the jury to find the pair not guilty on charges of facilitating a terrorism offence on the grounds they could not have facilitated each other. But even with those charges reinstated, the Appeal Court said a stay of proceedings should still be entered because of the entrapment.

The Appeal Court judgment includes a call to Parliament to streamline the language around terrorism offences for the benefit of « those members of the public who sit as jury members on such cases. »

Although the ruling will have the effect of freeing Nuttall and Korody, they still face the possibility of provincial court proceedings relating to a Crown application for a peace bond win proceedings that began after Bruce’s ruling.

Both remain on bail in relation to the peace bond proceedings.

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Terrorists or targets? Appeal court to decide fate of B.C. couple accused in bomb plot

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B.C.’s Court of Appeal will hand down a decision on Wednesday that could see a Surrey couple sent to jail for planting explosive devices on the grounds of the provincial legislature.

A jury found John Nuttall and Amanda Korody guilty of terrorism offences in 2015. But a B.C. Supreme Court judge stayed the proceedings in 2016 after finding the pair had been entrapped by police in an investigation that amounted to an abuse of process. 

A panel of judges on the higher court will decide whether to set aside Justice Catherine Bruce’s ruling. 

If they do, the guilty verdicts stands and the trial will move to sentencing. If they don’t, the proceedings remain stayed. However, either outcome could be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

The proceedings mark the latest chapter in an extraordinary legal odyssey that began more than five years ago when the RCMP said it had foiled a plot to set off pressure cooker bombs during the 2013 Canada Day festivities in Victoria.

But two very different versions of events were argued in court.

Nuttall and Korody, shown here in a still image taken from an RCMP undercover video, were found guilty of plotting to set off pressure cooker bombs at the B.C. Legislature. (Canadian Press)

The Crown contended Nuttall and Korody were « aspiring terrorists committed to violent jihad » while the defence claimed they were hapless fools who police had to all but hand-lead into plotting terrorist acts.

In her lengthy decision, Bruce delivered a blistering assessment of the case.

« Simply put, the world has enough terrorists, » she said. « We do not need the police to create more out of marginalized people who have neither the capacity nor the sufficient motivation to do it themselves. »

‘Unrealistic, unfeasible and grandiose’

Police began investigating Nuttall in 2012 after a member of the public claimed he had been « espousing violent Islamic beliefs » and had claimed to have killed a Jewish woman.

Nuttall, 44, who converted to Islam in 2011, claimed he was joking. Prior to 2012, he showed up on police records largely for drug-related offences. 

Korody, 35, had no criminal record and was only listed on police databases in connection with Nuttall, with whom she had been living on the streets of Victoria in 2009 and 2010.

The RCMP’s national security team began investigating in consultation with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Nuttall and Korody are seen in an artist’s sketch during their trial in Vancouver in 2015. (Felicity Don/Canadian Press)

Police ultimately launched an elaborate undercover operation that saw a Muslim officer posing as a jihadi work his way into Nuttall and Korody’s confidence.

Together, they embarked on the bomb plot.

But as Bruce pointed out, the couple’s ideas were « unrealistic, unfeasible and grandiose » — they talked about hijacking a nuclear submarine, taking the world hostage and building rockets to free Palestine.

In Victoria, where he had once lived, Nuttall forgot the location of the parliament buildings. He kept losing things and the judge found that without the « constant prodding and refocusing » of police he never would have completed his shopping list for the bombs. Korody spent most of the time asleep.

‘The RCMP manufactured the crime’

The law surrounding entrapment goes to the heart of the judicial system and the need to maintain confidence in the actions of police officers tasked with tricky investigations.

Bruce noted a critical distinction between situations in which police — acting on reasonable suspicion — « provide an opportunity to a person to commit a crime, on the one hand, and the state actually creating or inducing a crime for the purpose of prosecuting an accused. »

She stayed the proceedings on three grounds; two relating to entrapment and a third concerning abuse of process. 

First, the judge found police started the undercover operation without reasonable suspicion Nuttall and Korody were already engaged in criminal activity. Surveillance revealed they « did very little outside their home, » she said. 

The Crown’s appeal has been largely based on arguments that, in staying the proceedings, Justice Catherine Bruce misread the facts of the case. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Second, Bruce found police « knowingly exploited » the pair’s vulnerabilities « to induce them to commit the offences. »

The judge said it wasn’t a situation where RCMP foiled a pre-existing plan or where terrorists or people with skills terrorists might value were targeted.

« This is truly a case where the RCMP manufactured the crime, » Bruce wrote.

Finally, Bruce found the « illegal acts » police committed during the undercover operation and the way the undercover operative used religious talk to dispel their fears amounted to an abuse of process.

« It cannot be said that the police acted in bad faith; however, they did not act in good faith, » Bruce wrote.

The Crown’s appeal has been largely based on arguments that Bruce misread the facts of the case. To be successful, the appeal court judges will have to find that Bruce was wrong on all three of her findings.

After the proceedings were stayed in 2016, the Crown sought a peace bond against Nuttall and Korody, but a provincial court judge has held off hearing those arguments until the appeal court ruling.

The pair are currently on bail associated with the peace bond application.

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Canadian arrested in plot to smuggle grenade launcher, guns from U.S. to Lebanon – National

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A Canadian citizen was arrested in Seattle, Wash. after he was busted trying to hide firearms in a vehicle that he and an associate were planning to ship to Lebanon, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Nafez El Mir, a Canadian who lives in Lebanon, and Lebanese citizen Hicham Diab were arrested after they stuffed a grenade launcher, assault rifle kit and other weapons into the door panels and bumper spaces of an SUV, all in the presence of undercover agents from Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

READ MORE: Canadian sentenced to prison in U.S. for conspiring to export missile tech to Iran

It all started with a 2016 visit to Diab’s firearms store in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli by an unidentified U.S. resident. Diab asked whether this person had access to firearms in America and would be willing to sell them.

Upon returning to America, the U.S. resident reached out to authorities to inform them of Diab’s interest in buying weapons from the U.S.

The person was enlisted as a confidential informant, and worked with authorities to place a number of phone calls to Diab to discuss the firearm smuggling plot.

In late October, over a year and a half after Diab began speaking with the informant, Canadian citizen El Mir was enlisted in the plot due to his supposed experience in concealing weapons inside auto panels.

READ MORE: Canadian girls among victims in U.S. child porn case that landed 7 men in prison

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, undercover agents lured Diab to a warehouse that they had stocked with an array of weapons including a grenade launcher, 20 Glock handguns, a Smith & Wesson .50 revolver, an FN Fiveseven pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle kit.

The following day, El Mir and Diab returned to the warehouse and started working to conceal the weapons inside door panels and bumper cavities of an SUV.

WATCH: About 100 guns smuggled via border-straddling library







El Mir is also alleged to have discussed how to ship the vehicle to Lebanon, and pondered whether a second vehicle might have been needed to hide all the weapons that were to be shipped.

The men were arrested as they exited the warehouse Thursday evening.

They face one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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