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Canada Supreme Court to rule on media blackout in terrorism trial

[JURIST] Canada's Supreme Court [official website] agreed [docket] Thursday to review an Ontario court decision upholding media restrictions on the Toronto 18 [Toronto Star backgrounder] terrorism case. Under Canada's criminal code [text] the media may attend pre-trial hearings but in some instances may not report on them to prevent biasing potential jurors. The plaintiffs, which include the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CTV, the Toronto Star, and the Associated Press [media websites], argue that the law violates Canada's Charter on Human Rights and Freedoms [text]. The Ontario Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] that while the statute is overbroad, it was properly applied in this case. The Court previously agreed to review [docket] a challenge to the same law after an Edmonton court released on bail a man accused of murdering his pregnant wife. The Court will hear both cases in November.

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 [advocacy website] of the group's detention, and, despite the ban on press coverage, a 2008 documentary, Unfair Dealing [materials], was highly sympathetic to the accused. Last week one man was sentenced to time served and probation [JURIST report] and released. 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 that 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 US.

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