Chris Cobb, Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Four years after he was arrested, Ottawa’s Momin Khawaja finally has his day in court
Four days after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a gang of white males in OrlÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ans pulled a 15-year-old Muslim boy off his bicycle and beat him unconscious.
It was a random attack, a backlash by the ignorant reported in minor fashion amid the daily, multi-page coverage in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Buried in the Citizen story of the boy’s beating was a quote by a 22-year-old man named Mohammad Khawaja.
“I didn’t think something like that would happen in OrlÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ans,” he told a Citizen reporter during a random interview at the OrlÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ans mosque. “It’s shocking.”
The next time Mohammad Momin Khawaja’s name appeared in the newspaper, Ottawa – indeed, Canada – was saying much the same thing about him.
It was on March 30, 2004, the day after he was arrested for alleged involvement in an international terrorist conspiracy. When Mr. Khawaja’s non-jury trial begins under tight security in Ottawa on Monday, prosecutors will allege that he was a key player in a thwarted plan by terrorists to detonate a large bomb in London – at a location where it would inflict the greatest damage to people and property.
Five of his alleged accomplices are serving lengthy sentences in British prisons. Much of the same evidence that put them in jail is expected to be used against Mr. Khawaja when he becomes the first Canadian to be charged under the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks in the U.S.
Prosecution witness and convicted terrorist Mohammed Junaid Babar, an American of Pakistani origin, told the British trial that he worked with Mr. Khawaja in Pakistan at an al-Qaeda training camp during the summer of 2003 and that Mr. Khawaja returned to Pakistan months later.
Mr. Babar’s lawyers have negotiated a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Khawaja and others.
Mr. Khawaja has consistently denied all seven charges against him and none has yet been heard in a Canadian court. The evidence that convicted his alleged conspirators in London was presented with neither Mr. Khawaja nor his lawyer in the court to offer a defence.
Shortly after his arrest, Mr. Khawaja’s family said he told them that he went to Pakistan looking for a wife – the same reason he gave for visiting London weeks before his arrest. Relatives told reporters that he went on a pre-arranged family visit to the British capital because he had been unable to find a wife in Pakistan or a “suitable” Canadian woman to marry.
But at the trial of the London terrorists, prosecutors said Mr. Khawaja was shadowed by the British spy agency MI5 from the moment he arrived in London. They said he was seen getting into an associate’s car and driving to an Internet cafÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©, where he allegedly showed images of explosive devices to associates. London prosecutors also alleged that he told his co-conspirators how to detonate bombs using mobile phones.
British media dubbed Mr. Khawaja “The Fixer,” claiming he was a mentor to the British-born terrorists.
Mr. Khawaja, 29, is the middle child of the five Canadian-born children – four boys and one girl – of Mahboob Khawaja and his wife, Azra, who were raised in the Kashmir region of Pakistan
Mr. Khawaja graduated from Algonquin in 2002, set up a software development company called Qamo Technologies, which eventually led to contract work for the Department of Foreign Affairs, where he spent his last hours of freedom on March 29, 2004. He was called to an unscheduled business meeting, where he was met by police officers and arrested. Mr. Khawaja has been held in maximum security at the Ottawa Carleton Regional Detention Centre ever since.
Full Story | See Also: FBI Informant in British terror trial given immunity, proceedings raise question of what MI5 knew about 2005 London bombings | Five guilty in UK bomb plot | Terror accused refuses to discuss links to Pakistan secret service, family threatened | London terror plotter was ‘hardened’ in ISI camp | Fertiliser claim in terror trial | Terror informant names plotters | British ‘Terror Suspects’ Were in Contact With MI5 | Eight held in British anti-terror raids | US Allowed Taliban, Al-Qaeda Airlift Evacuation