Steven Chand staunchly opposed the extremist ideology espoused by "Toronto 18" ringleader Fahim Ahmad, openly challenging and even attempting to defraud his supposed friend, a Superior Court jury heard yesterday.
During his closing address, Mr. Chand's lawyer, Michael Moon, painted Ahmad as a young man trapped in a life of "grinding tedium" who fostered delusions of grandeur, in which he became "a lion and a leader" fighting for Muslims around the world.
"Fahim Ahmad was a frog who believed he was a jihadi prince," Mr. Moon said. "He was just a frog, and Steven knew that ... Whenever Steven was exposed to Ahmad's ideas, he opposed them."
By the time Ahmad's views had crystallized into a plot to detonate bombs in downtown Toronto and storm Parliament, the jury heard, Mr. Chand-- who often confronted Ahmad on his jihadist "rants" -- had elected to keep his distance.
Ahmad pleaded guilty to terrorism charges last month, while Mr. Chand, 29, stands charged with participating in a terrorist group and counseling to commit fraud in association with that group.
Mr. Moon placed critical emphasis on the time frame in which the terrorist faction allegedly operated. The Crown suggests it was launched in 2005, culminating in a December training camp, and then continued in 2006 up until a series of arrests that spring. Mr. Moon contends the group was not officially operating until February 2006; at the time of the camp, which his client attended, he says Mr. Chand "would not, could not and did not know such a group existed."
Rather, Mr. Chand-- who helped set up an obstacle course and consulted with Ahmad about the performance of attendeees -- believed the camp in Washago, Ont., was focused on "winter survival tactics," the jury heard.
"Steven was no more than a potential recruit," Mr. Moon said, noting his client was not present for some of the key terror-related activities, such as handgun training or Ahmad's infamous "fall of Rome" speech, in which he called for the destruction of western society.
"[Mr. Chand was] off smoking a joint," Mr. Moon suggested, pointing to testimony from star Crown witness Mubin Shaikh about how Mr. Chand frequently went for walks in the woods. When he came back from these sojourns, "his eyes were red and he would be hungry," the jury heard.
At no point was Mr. Chand involved in the "jihadist aspects" of the camp, Mr. Moon said, nor was he a part of Ahmad's "inner circle," as the Crown has suggested.
Because Mr. Chand and Ahmad differed in their political views, Mr. Moon said, they drifted further apart in the weeks after the camp.
"[Ahmad was] critical and mocking of Steven for his peaceable and non-jihadist ways," Mr. Moon asserted, noting Mr. Chand ultimately decided he wanted nothing to do with Ahmad.
Mr. Chand would later contact Ahmad about a moneymaking scheme, which the Crown alleges was a means of funding the terrorist group. But Mr. Moon contends his client was actually out to defraud Ahmad and split the proceeds with another friend; the scheme never got off the ground.
Mr. Chand is being jointly tried with Asad Ansari, who is also accused of participating in the homegrown terror cell. The Crown will close its case today, with the jury expected to begin deliberations next week.