Khurram Sher was found not guilty today of planning al-Qaeda-inspired activities, becoming the first Canadian tried on terror charges to be acquitted.
While delivering his decision, Justice Charles Hackland called Sher "naive" and "immature," but said he has an "impressive professional and academic record."
Hackland told court the crucial meeting between the three people accused in the case produced no plan of action or timeline, and that there were no further actions by Sher after the meeting.
Hackland also said the evidence showed Sher was sympathetic to jihad.
'It feels great,' Sher says
Outside the courthouse, Sher declined to speak to reporters.
"It feels great, but again, I'm not making any more comments and I'll leave it to [my lawyer] to comment right now," he said.
Sher's defence lawyer, Michael Edelson, said Sher will now focus on decompressing and getting his life together.
"His life has been on hold for four years. His career has been ended, he's lost over a million dollars in income, prestige in the community, and it's been a very, very tough four years. His family has left, he has reduced access to his children; it's been tragic," Edelson said.
"He's been under very stringent bail conditions for four years and they have now been lifted. They fall away with this verdict, and I think he's going to start to figure out what his next plans are."
Prosecutor Jason Wakely called the judge's decision "disappointing."
"We're going to review the reasons, which were lengthy and well considered, and we'll determine whether there are any grounds for an appeal," Wakely said, adding that prosecutors have 30 days to decide.
University of Ottawa professor Wesley Wark, an expert on security issues, said he expects Sher's legal proceedings are over.
"I imagine that they decided to prosecute Sher in the first place because they simply wanted to close the ring around the three, but knew from the beginning that this was the weakest case," he said.
"So I think they'll move on to the next case and that'll be the show-stopper case."
The trial for the third alleged conspirator, who can't be named under a court order, is scheduled to begin in February.
Sher arrested 4 years ago
The former London, Ont., pathologist was arrested Aug. 6, 2010, and charged with conspiring to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity. He was charged about two weeks after a wiretapped meeting at the centre of the trial.
In that July 20, 2010, meeting, Sher, Misbahuddin Ahmed and another person discussed sending money to the Taliban and bomb making, and appeared to mention CFB Trenton as a potential target, according to transcripts.
Sher’s defence said he was brought to the meeting without warning and was playing along with the conversation, being non-committal on purpose.
Crown prosecutors said Sher knew what the meeting would be about and was part of the discussion beforehand.
Every person tried under Canada’s new anti-terrorism legislation has been found guilty so far, including Ahmed, who was found guilty of conspiring to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity and participation in the activities of a terrorist group in July.
Ahmed is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15.
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