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Canada court upholds media blackout in terrorism trial

[JURIST] The Ontario Court of Appeal [official website] Monday affirmed [judgment, PDF] a lower court ruling that prohibits the media from reporting on the terrorism trial of a group known as the "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder]. The 3-2 decision found that a Canadian criminal statute [text] allowing defendants to request a media blackout is applicable in this instance. The majority wrote that the statute protects the accused from unfavorable coverage that may prejudice prospective jurors. Lawyers for the plaintiffs - the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CTV, the Toronto Star [corporate websites], and the Associated Press (AP) - plan to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada [official website].

The Toronto 18 [JURIST op-ed], a group of adults and minors arrested in a 2006 anti-terrorism raid, have provoked intense reactions from detractors and supporters alike. Mosques were vandalized [NYT report] and the debate about Canadian security intensified in the wake of the group's arrest. Others contest the lawfulness of the group's detention [advocacy website], and, despite the ban on press coverage, a 2008 documentary, Unfair Dealing [materials], was highly sympathetic to the accused. In September, a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice [official website] convicted [JURIST report] one of the Toronto 18 terrorism suspects for participating in a group which allegedly plotted to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] while attacking parliament. The conviction was the first under Section 83 [Canadian DOJ backgrounder] of the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act [text], passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

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