Wednesday, May 26, 2010



The Crown launched a multi-pronged assault yesterday on the credibility of Asad Ansari, one of the final two accused in the "Toronto 18" terrorism case.

Mr. Ansari, who has denied any role in the 2006 bomb plot and professed to be "scared of weapons," could not explain why police found a cache of files on a CD in his bedroom containing images of violent jihad.

"I can't answer the why," Mr. Ansari said during his cross-examination. "I can only say that I have these images."

The files include photographs of Osama bin Laden and masked militants hoisting AK-47s. In a number of shots, bearded men pose with rocket launchers; others feature a variety of guns and swords.

Mr. Ansari agreed the images glorified the concept of armed mujahideen, but said his aversion to firearms only applied "in real life."

Mr. Ansari, 25, is on trial for participating in a terrorist group that allegedly operated between 2005 and 2006. He admits to attending a winter camping trip organized by "Toronto 18" ringleader Fahim Ahmad, but denies he had any knowledge at the time that the camp was intended as a terrorist training ground.

Ahmad pleaded guilty to terrorism charges this month.

In general, Crown attorney Jason Wakely contended, "[Ahmad] was very open about his plans to attack."

"I guess, sure," Mr. Ansari replied. Yet he maintained Ahmad concealed those plans from him specifically, with discussions on topics such as jihad occurring only in the "theoretical" realm.

The jury has seen a video of the winter camp in Washago, Ont., filmed by Zakaria Amara, who was also charged in the terror plot. In the footage, masked men are seen running through the forest, hoisting a black flag and shooting guns, with Arabic chanting overlaid as a sound-track. Mr. Ansari says he was not present during the filming of any of the violent scenes. "Everything seemed benign and innocuous," he said of the camp.

Mr. Ansari has testified that Amara brought him the camp footage after the event had ended and asked for assistance in converting it to a digital format. This was incriminating evidence, Mr. Wakely pointed out, and "Amara trusted you with that."

"That's correct," the accused testified. Yet he says he never watched any of the footage while he was converting it, simply setting up the conversion process and then leaving the room to do other tasks. The Crown suggested this was false.

"The natural thing to do is to watch it," Mr. Wakely said, noting Mr. Ansari, who was out of school and not working, had little else to focus on at the time.

"I did not [watch]," Mr. Ansari asserted. While he agreed in retrospect it would have

made sense to view the camp video, "it was only happenstance" that he failed to do so.

The Crown also pointed to an intercepted telephone call in which Mr. Ansari speaks to Ahmad about malicious software found on Ahmad's computer.

"You were deliberately cryptic and guarded in this conversation," Mr. Wakely said, alleging Mr. Ansari was aware all the while that Ahmad was the subject of police surveillance, including a wiretap.

"No I did not," Mr. Ansari said. He says he was non-specific in discussing the malicious software because Ahmad "is an idiot when it comes to computers."

At one point in the conversation, Mr. Ansari alerts Ahmad to a program that is sending information out of his computer. "I can guess [where]," Ahmad says. Mr. Ansari, however, fails to follow up with the "obvious question" of where, Mr. Wakely noted.

Mr. Ansari, a self-described computer whiz, said he was not particularly interested in the "amateurish" program, adding it never occurred to him that it was installed by a law-enforcement agency.

The trial resumes today.