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Terror suspect's lawyer says client accused of wanting to behead PM

[PoliticsWatch posted 5:00 p.m. June 6, 2006]

OTTAWA  — One of the lawyers for the suspects in the alleged terror plot says he has been given a synopsis of the allegations that says the 17 men were involved in a plot that included storming the Parliament buildings and beheading the prime minister. 
"There's an allegation that my client personally indicated that he wanted to behead the prime minister of Canada," Gary Batasar, who represents Steven Chand, told reporters in Brampton.

"It's a very serious allegations and (Chand has) said nothing about it. My client maintains the right to silence."

Chand is a 25-year-old restaurant worker from Toronto. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reacted to latest news from the terror case with humour. 

"I can live with all of these threats as long as they're not from my caucus," Harper told reporters as he left question period and walked up the stairs to his Centre Block office. 

Batasar said a synopsis of the allegations included a plot to storm the Parliament buildings, blow up some of the buildings, take politicians hostage and demand Canada pull out of Afghanistan.  

Canada's involvement in Afghanistan appears to be the motivation behind some of the alleged terrorists. 

A Liberal MP, Wajid Khan, told reporters this week that he had an encounter with one of the suspects, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, just last year. 

"He said Canadian troops were (in Afghanistan) to rape Muslim women," Khan said. 

Aly Hindy, imam at the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Scarborough, told Global News Jamal was an aggressive "elder," angry about Canada's role in Afghanistan.

Police say the investigation into the alleged plot has been going on since 2004, before Canada took on a greater role in counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. 

Despite his client being accused of wanting to assassinate the prime minister, Batasar said Harper could be having an impact on his client receiving a fair trial for comments he has made since the 17 men were arrested on the weekend.  

"The comments made by the prime minister himself with respect to his happiness that these persons have been arrested certainly is surprising and shocking," Batasar added.

"I believe the prime minister should keep out of the process and let justice take its course."

Meanwhile, the news from Brampton created a surreal mood on Parliament Hill as reporters scrummed politicians about their views on politicians being taken hostage and the prime minister being threatened to be beheaded. 

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said the new revelations about the plot are further evidence that Canada needs to have an active role in the war on terrorism.

"All Canadians should be concerned about the kinds of revelations we have seen . . . I am of the view that it necessitates a strong, tough response against terrorism here in Canada and abroad -- that includes Afghanistan."

NDP Leader Jack Layton, whose party recently came out against Canada's role in Afghanistan, would not comment on the new revelations, saying "I don't think we should be linking these things."

Layton said, however, that the revelations raise questions about increasing security on the Hill. He said that the party whips will meet to talk about reviewing security on the Hill. 

Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham said security should be increased but MPs must be careful not to increase security in a way that would prohibit the public to see Parliament. 

MPs are mixed as to whether security on the Hill is adequate. 

Visitors must go through metal detectors before entering the buildings and vehicle access is restricted but the public can still walk right up to the front doors of the Centre Block. 

"We have security here on the Hill that I have a lot of confidence in," said Treasury Board President John Baird.

But NDP MP Joe Comartin told reporters that a suicide bomber would have no problem penetrating security. 

"I think the biggest single concern right now is whether somebody can penetrate with a vehicle -- a truck or a car -- with explosives in it. If you look at the perimeter coming off Wellington (Street) it is relatively easy to do that."

In 2003, two years after Hill security was heightened after September 11 attacks, there were two incidents where vehicles were able to penetrate security and drive right up to the Peace Tower. In one incident, the man had two propane containers in his vehicle.

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