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Crown closes case, defence calls first witness in terrorism trial for Calgary man

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Crown prosecutors have closed what they described as a "very complex case" involving national security in the trial of a Calgary man accused of going to Syria to fight with ISIS.

Jamal Borhot, 34, is accused of committing terrorist acts with the Islamic State, alleged to have crossed the border into Syria in 2013 and 2014.

He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of participating in terrorist group activity laid against him in September 2020.

On Monday, Crown prosecutors finished presenting evidence, after calling around 30 witnesses over the past eight weeks.

"Just the size of a case doesn't make it complex but that certainly is a factor. But things like having foreign evidence, we have to call expert evidence, we have to call evidence that engages events that occurred in a different country, a war-torn nation. That all makes it complex," said Crown prosecutor Kent Brown.

One criminal justice expert says issues surrounding national security for Canada and other countries involved also create an extra challenge for prosecutors.

"It's in this instance where you need international co-operation," said Doug King, a criminal justice professor at Mount Royal University.

"Even in Canada, where police agencies have a hard time sharing information, now we're talking national security agencies, national and international security agencies, sharing information and they may be very guarded in what they want to provide."

King says these types of cases, and convictions, are a rarity.

"There aren't that many cases here in Canada that have been successfully prosecuted, so this for a Crown prosecutor is something really unusual," he said.

"Behind the scenes, there are layers and layers of documentation that have to be done that the Crown prosecutor has to share with the attorney general and national security about, 'Can you let this information out?'"

The defence began presenting its case Monday and called its first witness to testify.

Roula Salam, an expert on translation from Arabic to English, was tasked with reviewing and translating audio files from the RCMP's investigation, which consisted of 186 hours worth of recordings.

Salam described the audio quality as at times unclear and said it was a challenge to identify what was being said due to a lack of context.

The trial is scheduled to wrap by the end of the week but there is a chance it could be extended beyond that.

Borhot's co-accused and cousin, Hussein Borhot, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May 2022 in a separate trial.

In April, Justice Corina Dario dismissed the defence's application to have the case thrown out due to delays in the court process, determining that Borhot's rights had not been violated under the charter challenge.

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