Devastated after his dreams of pursuing university-level computer science came to a crashing halt, accused terrorist Asad Ansari found a darker new purpose in life, the Crown alleged yesterday at his trial in Superior Court.
"You had become dedicated to jihad," Crown attorney Jason Wakely suggested.
"That is not true," responded Mr. Ansari, who has told the court he fell into a deep depression upon learning his parents could not afford to send him to his program of choice at the Unversity of Waterloo. But he maintains he never contemplated turning to terrorism, and was unaware his close friends were developing a homegrown terror cell during the relevant time period in 2005 and 2006.
Mr. Ansari, 25, is one of two remaining accused to be tried in the "Toronto 18" case, which involved an alleged plot to detonate bombs in the city's core and to attack senior politicians in Ottawa.
Ringleader Fahim Ahmad pleaded guilty to terrorism charges last month.
The jury yesterday watched a video from a CD labelled "Good stuff: Islamic videos," which police found in Mr. Ansari's bedroom after his arrest.
In it, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri heaps scorn on the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan-- a mission Mr. Ansari has testified he supported--and urges the Muslim population to seek reform through jihad.
As this would have countered the views Mr. Ansari purported to have at the time, Mr. Wakely noted, "why is it that you saved this video?"
Mr. Ansari said he often sought out controversial material for his own edification.
"If I have that, it doesn't mean I agree with it," he said, calling al-Qaeda's standpoint "completely retarded as an ideology."
The court has heard that during a winter training camp in Washago, Ont., in 2005, Ahmad likened the Toronto 18 to al-Qaeda; Mr. Ansari, who says he was unaware the camp was intended as a terrorist training ground when he attended, denies having heard such a statement, and yesterday called it a humourous concept.
Mr. Wakely challenged Mr. Ansari on the title of the CD --- "Good stuff: Islamic videos" -- containing the al-Zawahiri video and other scenes of violent jihad, including explosions and masked militants firing rocket-propelled grenades.
"This depicts warfare, killing, hatred," Mr. Wakely said. "What's good about this stuff?"
"There's nothing good about this stuff," Mr. Ansari acknowledged, noting he frequently and indiscriminately labelled CDs in that fashion: "It was not an assessment in any way."
The Crown also referred to a document called the "Terrorist Handbook" found in Mr. Ansari's possession at the time of his arrest in June 2006. But defence lawyer John Norris contended this was merely an informational document, "not for actual use."
With the defence case for Mr. Ansari now concluded, lawyer Michael Moon will open his case today for 29-year-old Steven Chand, who stands charged with participation in a terrorist group and counselling to commit fraud over $5,000 in association with that group.