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Calgary man facing terrorism charges attempts to have case thrown out

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A Calgary man accused of going to Syria to fight with ISIS is attempting to have the terrorism charges against him thrown out due to the length of time it has taken for the case to make its way to trial.

In a hearing on Monday, Justice Corina Dario heard a Jordan application to have all charges stayed against Jamal Borhot, 34, who sat silently in court wearing a jacket and collared shirt.

Borhot was charged in 2020 with three counts of participation in terrorist group activity, accused of travelling to Syria in 2013 and 2014 to commit terrorist acts with the Islamic State.

Defence lawyer Pawel Milczarek argued in the hearing that the trial timeline has exceeded limits set by the Supreme Court of Canada and that the case against his client should be dismissed.

According to The Supreme Court's 2016 R. v. Jordan decision – referred to as the 'Jordan decision' – trials must be heard within 30 months after charges are laid for a province's superior court, such as the Court of King's Bench of Alberta.

The Charter challenge alleges Borhot's right to a trial in a timely fashion has been violated, citing the 44-month-and-eight-day delay from Borhot being charged in September 2020 to the anticipated last day of trial on May 31, 2024.

Crown prosecutors argue the delays are a result of the defence and say the case sits closer to 17 months.

Domenic Puglia told the court that even if Dario disagreed with their calculations, he would ask her to dismiss the Jordan application because of exceptional circumstances from a complex case involving national security.

Kelly Sundberg, criminologist and associate professor in the department of economics, justice and policy studies at Mount Royal University, says these cases are difficult to prosecute because the alleged offences occurred abroad.

"This is an individual who has been accused of engaging in activities and membership support and fighting with ISIS, which is a terrorist organization that was operating in an incredibly remote and inaccessible area, for the most part," he said.

"So the evidence, the witnesses, all of these components to this matter are incredibly difficult to nail down, let alone to present within a court of law."

Sundberg says on a broader scale, this type of case highlights a flaw in Canada's ability to hold accountable Canadians who went abroad to fight with terrorist organizations.

"The Government of Canada has done very little, if anything, to meaningfully address foreign fighters. This is a major national security concern for our country. We've seen abysmal response to issues of bolstering Canada's ability to address terrorist activities, as well as foreign fighters that are returned to Canada," he said.

"So this is a very important case. It's going to bring to light what happened and what are the risks in the future, and it's also going to highlight just how many individuals in Canada went over to fight with terrorists and have now returned to Canada and are living within our communities. This is a really concerning reality that we live in today."

Borhot's mother remained in court for much of the hearing but did not want to comment on the case or her son.

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

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