The Supreme Court of Canada has declared the country's controversial anti-terror law to be constitutional in a series of unanimous, precedent-setting rulings that affirmed how terrorism is defined in the Criminal Code.
In a 7-0 ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the court on Friday dismissed a series of charter appeals brought by three men, including terrorist Momin Khawaja, the first person ever charged under the anti-terror law that was passed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.
McLachlin said an Ottawa trial judge erred by giving Khawaja too light a sentence at 10 1/2 years in prison and said the life sentence later imposed by the Ontario Court of Appeal sent a "clear and unmistakable message that terrorism is reprehensible and those who choose to engage in it (in Canada) will pay a very heavy price"
The rulings also upheld extradition orders against two other men, Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah, who can now be sent to the United States to face trial on charges of supporting the Tamil Tigers, a banned terrorist group.
The court flatly rejected a series of constitutional challenges brought by the three men, dismissing their lawyers' arguments that the new law was too broad, criminalized harmless activity and violated the charter guarantee of freedom of expression.
The ruling essentially means the December 2001 anti-terror law, introduced by the then-Liberal government and supported by the two opposition parties that eventually became the present Conservative party, contains no rights violations and doesn't have to be changed.
For Khawaja, it means the end of the road in a long, legal saga that began with his arrest in 2004, ran through a hard-fought trial in an Ottawa courtroom and ended with his 2008 conviction.
He was convicted of training at a remote camp in Pakistan, providing cash to a group of British extremists and building a remote-control detonator, known as the Hi-Fi Digimonster.
The Supreme Court dismissed the argument that the law was overbroad in its definition of terrorism and could ensnare innocent people.