TORONTO — A Pakistani man accused of plotting terror attacks in Toronto’s financial district decided on Tuesday to stop testifying despite facing possible criminal sanction for doing so.
The decision from Jahanzeb Malik, a permanent resident of Canada facing a deportation hearing, could see him fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to up to five years in prison.
“I’m choosing not to answer the questions,” Malik told the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing. “Any questions.”
“There may be consequences,” Andrew Laut, the presiding member, told him.
Malik, 34, had been testifying via video link from the detention centre in Lindsay, Ont., responding to questions from John Oliveira of Canada Border Services Agency.
He told the hearing he had travelled to Libya two years ago to teach English as a second language.
“It was a job opportunity,” he said. “I went there, you know, to make some money.”
Malik said he spent two months in the Libyan city of Benghazi before heading to Pakistan to see his parents.
Pictures he took in Libya were lost when he dropped his phone, he said.
Oliveira questioned Malik about his religious beliefs and to which Muslim sect he belonged to.
“I don’t believe in sects. I’m a simple Muslim,” Malik replied. “I’m not a religious scholar.”
Oliveira asked if he was an observant Muslim.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Malik said. “What’s the definition of an observant Muslim?”
Ottawa accuses Malik of plotting to attack the U.S. consulate and financial district buildings in Toronto and wants him declared inadmissible. It also accuses him of trying to recruit and radicalize others to help commit terrorist acts.
The government’s case is largely based on evidence gathered by an undercover RCMP officer, who befriended the flooring contractor. The officer, who cannot be identified under a sweeping publication ban, has yet to testify at the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing.
Malik, a father of two, came to Canada as a student in 2004 to study math at York University, and became a permanent resident in 2009.
He was vague about his various Twitter handles and multiple Facebook accounts, which he said had been hacked or disabled for reasons he didn’t know. “Ask Facebook,” he said.
Asked to explain one tweet in which he used an expletive against Shia Muslims, he said he didn’t intend to condemn all Shias but wanted to make clear he didn’t condone killings in the name of sects.
“They’re the ones who committed this atrocity,” he said. “Everything has context.”
Malik’s lawyer, Anser Farooq, noted the rules of evidence are much looser than those in a criminal court. He objected to the government’s entering 400 pages of typed notes of the officer’s interactions with Malik.
RCMP did not provide audio recordings of the interactions and it’s impossible to verify the notes, Farooq said.
“We can’t meaningfully test any of them,” Farooq said. “(Mr. Malik) is in a forum where his hands are tied, both literally and figuratively.”
Laut disagreed. Farooq would get a chance to question the officer about the notes when he testifies, Laut said.
Also on Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced legislation he said would make it easier to deport foreign criminals.