Demonstrators gather outside court as murder suspect Ibrahim Ali set to appear

VANCOUVER — Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside a Vancouver courthouse Friday as a man charged in the death of a teenage girl was scheduled to appear in provincial court.

Ibrahim Ali, 28, was arrested last Friday and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Marrisa Shen, a 13-year-old whose body was found in Burnaby’s Central Park in July 2017.

Police say Ali is a Syrian national who moved to Burnaby as a refugee 17 months ago and is a permanent resident of Canada with no prior criminal history.

None of the allegations against Ali have been proven in court.

Ali’s appearance was delayed as the court waited for an Arabic translator to arrive.

Protesters who gathered outside the courthouse questioned the country’s immigration system under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, some clutching white flowers and holding signs that read “Justin Trudeau, where is your heart now?” and “No More Killings.”

Lu Lu travelled from nearby Richmond to participate in the demonstration and says he’s not opposed to refugees or immigrants, but he believes stricter background checks are needed.

A small group also held a candlelight vigil outside court, where Nasser Najjar says he supports Shen’s family and one man’s alleged actions do not represent the Syrian or Arab community.

“In my first job, I worked in the Canadian Red Cross, helping people in Alberta when the fires happened,” says Najjar, who is Palestinian and arrived in Canada two years ago.

“We come with pure hearts and we try to move forward.”

Shen was last seen in the evening of July 18, 2017. When she didn’t return home, her mother called police, and officers found her body in a wooded area of Central Park early the next morning.

The girl was seen on security video entering a Tim Hortons about 10 minutes after she left home at 6 p.m. and she was last seen around 7:30 p.m. walking near the coffee shop. Shen’s mother reported her missing at 11:30 p.m. and the girl’s body was found 90 minutes later, police have said.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced the charge against Ali on Monday, two weeks after police said they became aware of him. Supt. Donna Richardson, the officer in charge of the team, said Ali is employed and has family in Canada.

Richardson said the investigation of Shen’s death was one of the largest in the history of the team since its formation in 2003 and involved 600 interviews and the elimination of over 2,000 persons of interest.

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