TORONTO — Prosecutors are seeking a new trial for a man who attacked uniformed personnel at a Toronto military centre three years ago, arguing he should be considered a terrorist even though he acted alone and mental illness rendered him not criminally responsible for his actions.
Ayanle Hassan Ali was charged with attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon, as well as carrying a weapon, all for the benefit of a terrorist group in connection with the March 2016 knife attack.
Last year, an Ontario judge found that while Ali was motivated by his extremist beliefs, the emergence of those beliefs was linked to his mental illness. The judge also found Ali was acting alone and thus not for the benefit of a terrorist group.
Ali was therefore cleared on the terror element of the charges and found not criminally responsible on lesser included offences.
Crown attorneys argue in appeal documents that the trial judge misinterpreted the law in a way that would make it harder to stop and prosecute so-called lone wolf terrorists.
They say Ali should still be considered not criminally responsible, but on the terror charges rather than the lesser ones — and since the court cannot simply make that change, a new trial is warranted on that issue.
In documents filed ahead of Monday’s hearing before the Court of Appeal for Ontario, prosecutors say the trial judge erred in rejecting their argument that someone can be both the person acting for the benefit of a terror group and the terror group itself.
“The trial judge was wrong to conclude that section 83.2 (of the Criminal Code) is directed only at associative conduct and is not intended to capture terrorist activity carried out by a ‘lone wolf,’” they wrote.
“Parliament’s true purpose was to prevent and punish ‘terrorist activity’ — acts of serious violent committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose, with the intention of intimidating the public. Terrorist activity can be committed as readily by an individual — a lone wolf — as it can be by a larger group.”
The trial judge’s interpretation of the law would mean that if a lone wolf has taken serious steps to carry out an attack but has not yet made an attempt, that person could not be convicted on any charges, Crown attorneys allege.
A lone wolf who has taken action could only be convicted on lesser included charges, without the terror component, they add.