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Terror suspects could be less dangerous than street racers: MP

[PoliticsWatch posted 6:15 p.m. June 13, 2006]

OTTAWA  — Conservative MP Garth Turner defended comments he made on his blog this week where he wrote that some of the 17 people charged in connection with the alleged Toronto terror plot may be less dangerous than street racers who have taken lives. 
Turner wrote the comments in his blog shortly after he had a meeting with 20 people at a mosque in his Ontario riding of Halton. The entry was called "In the Mosque" (PDF)

Five the 17 people facing terrorism-related charges are young offenders under the age of 18. 

The MP concluded his posting about that meeting by writing, "left unsaid was a simple request that transcended the meeting. Forgive our sons."

In his comments section, one reader took exception to Turner's "forgive our sons" line, writing "I realize teens can get caught up and go too far, but my tolerance gets stretched much beyond shoplifting. Garth, what are YOUR thoughts on this?"

Writing in italics, Turner replied adding he heard things while at the mosque that he "would never get from the MSM (mainstream media)" and concluded: "I believe the authorities were 100% correct in what they did, but there's also a very good chance many of these young 'terrorists' were less dangerous than the punk street racers who have actually already taken lives."

After question period, Turner clarified his comments to PoliticsWatch.  

"The simple point I was trying to make was that they're accused terrorists and they need their day in court," he said. 

"To automatically say they are criminals I think is jumping the gun. I think that's what my constituents are trying to tell me who are involved in this.

"Somebody who has actually been involved with something like street racing where a death has occurred -- they are criminals. These guys aren't criminals yet."

Turner said he is trying to delay the rush to judgement he had seen in comments on his blog. 

The MP said too many of his readers believe "that simply because these are young, they're Muslims, they're accused of terrorism, they've got to be guilty."

Turner said the parents, friends and relatives of some of the 17 facing charges who are accused that he met with are convinced the suspects are innocent. 

According to Turner, his comparison to convicted street racers on his blog were part of his job as an MP.

"They are my constituents and when they hold that point of view it's somewhat my responsibility to make sure that justice is seen to prevail as well as prevail."

Turner described the meeting at the mosque in some detail in his blog, and admitted not feeling comfortable. 

He wrote about how the first man he saw upon arriving at the mosque "poked a finger in my chest and asked me if I thought it was proper that RCMP officers 'should handcuff a little nine-year-old girl and a mother while they searched their house.'"

Turner said he met in a small classroom with about 20 people, "four of them women, two in burkas and the others completely covered save their faces."

Turner told PoliticsWatch that when he went to the mosque he was "somewhat harassed" and that he did not feel comfortable. 

"But at the end of the day, I did feel that the parents made some valid points," said Turner.

He said quite a few of the family members of the 17 suspects live in his riding. 

Also in Turner's riding is Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.

Lawyers and some of the suspects who attended a bail hearing in Brampton, Ontario, on Monday told the judge and reporters that some of the suspects were being tortured while being held in detention at the correctional facility.

Turner was skeptical about those allegations. 

"I would find it extremely hard to believe," he said. "I know a number of people who work at the correctional facility and I just can't image them harassing and torturing people."

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