Witnesses missing in Somali murder trial

The trial of two men accused of murdering Mohamed Ali Ibrahim at the River Cree Casino two years ago opened amid fears of intimidation and inconsistent testimony.
Alexander Reid is shown in this court sketch on Oct. 25, 2010. ((CBC))
The trial of two men accused of murdering Mohamed Ali Ibrahim at the River Cree Casino two years ago opened amid fears of intimidation and inconsistent testimony. 

The men accused in the killing, Adam Michael Brown and Alexander Reid, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

The trial is the first in a string of cases in the Edmonton area where young Somali-Canadian men were killed.

Ibrahim, 24, was shot with a single bullet to the back of the head outside the casino west of Edmonton on Aug. 30, 2008.

The trial got off to a shaky start Monday when the crown reported two key witnesses did not check in.

The witnesses that did testify told the court they had been drinking that night.

"I didn't see a face or anything like that," said a woman who testified she was just two meters from the shooter.

A second witness also denied seeing the gunman — at first.

Witness changes story

Gedi Hussein testified he was having a cigarette outside of the casino the night of the shooting. He told the court he "didn't get a clear view of the shooter."

But after a short break and a review of his statement to police, Hussein described the scene vividly.

Adam Michael Brown is also on trial for second-degree murder in Mohamed Ali Ibrahim's death. (CBC) ((CBC))
Hussein said a tall, muscular, but chubby African Canadian approached the victim with a handgun. He heard gunshots before running off.

In the courtroom, community and family members sat in exasperation.

Community leader Mahamad Accord worried inconsistencies in the testimony will undermine the trial.

"Are they lying right now or are they lying at that time?  And what makes them change their story? Those are the things we have to ask."

Accord is calling on authorities to help keep the witnesses safe and make sure that those who don't tell the truth are held accountable.

"The difficulty we have in this case is people intimidating witnesses as well as the family,"  Accord said.

Prosecutor Ashley Finlayson told CBC News that two key witnesses did not check in this morning and that he was "having some difficulty getting all of our witnesses here and it's frustrating."