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Canada judge rules terror definition in anti-terror law unconstitutional

[JURIST] An Ontario Superior Court judge struck down a central provision of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act [text; CBC backgrounder] Tuesday, saying it violates the constitutional rights of Momin Khawaja [CBC backgrounder]. Lawyers for Khawaja, the first person charged [JURIST report] under the terrorism legislation, had argued [JURIST report] that the legislation passed in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks on the US is unconstitutionally vague and violates several provisions of the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms [text]. Justice Douglas Rutherford ruled that the section of the law defining "terrorism" violates the Charter. A Canadian Justice Department spokesman told AFP, "The Superior Court annulled the definition of terrorist activity under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the provision in the act that requires proof that a person was motivated by ideological, religious or political purpose in the activity for which they've been charged. Essentially, this ruling means there is no definition of terrorism."

Khawaja, the Canadian-born son of Pakistani immigrants, was arrested in March 2004 and is accused of knowingly participating in or contributing to the activities of a terrorist group and of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity in Ottawa and London. His trial is scheduled to begin in January and will likely last up to three months. AFP has more. CBC News has local coverage.

This is the second judicial setback to the Canadian anti-terror legislation in less than a week; last Thursday, another Ontario Superior Court judge threw out part of a secrecy law [JURIST report] passed as part of the same package that had been invoked in 2004 to search a reporter's home for the source of a story she published on Maher Arar [JURIST news archive], the Canadian citizen who on suspicion of being linked to Al Qaeda was deported from the US to Syria in 2002 and tortured there.

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