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Judge strikes down part of Canada's terrorism law

Written by: Staff

OTTAWA, Oct 24 (Reuters) An Ontario judge struck down a section of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act today, saying it violates freedom of religion and thought guarantees in the country's Charter of Rights.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Douglas Rutherford made the decision in the case of a Canadian who is charged with conspiring to carry out bomb attacks in Britain.

Rutherford said the clause in the law that limits the definition of terrorist activity to acts motivated by religion, politics or ideology is unconstitutional. He severed that clause from the rest of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which he left in place.

His ruling was in response to a constitutional challenge by Momin Khawaja, a Canadian Muslim who was the first person charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which became law in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Khawaja faces seven charges under the act that do not detail religious or ideological motivation but rather such concrete actions as conspiring with others to develop explosives.

Rutherford ruled that those charges should proceed, and rebuffed an argument by Khawaja's lawyer that the Anti-Terrorism Act is too broad and vague.

Khawaja, arrested in 2004, remains in jail and will proceed to trial on January 2. Seven British Muslims accused of being his co-conspirators are on trial separately in Britain.

One of them, Omar Khyam, told a court in London last month of his delight with the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and said Pakistanis and Afghans loved the attack's mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

One of the reasons the Canadian legislation had included the section on political, religious or ideological motivation was so that people with other motivation, for example labor union demonstrators, would not be labeled terrorists.

Rutherford said the effect, however, was to unfairly focus investigation on political, religious and ideological beliefs.

Reuters PDS VP0030

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