Alberta justice minister weighs in on Abdulahi Sharif trial

Alberta's justice minister is under fire with some in the legal community for a controversial tweet.

'I hope this will help to deter other such heinous acts,' Doug Schweitzer tweeted after guilty verdict

Abdulahi Sharif, seen in this photograph after his arrest, is charged with five counts of attempted murder in relation to two truck attacks in Edmonton on Sept. 20, 2017. (Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service)

Alberta's justice minister is under fire from some in the legal community for a controversial tweet.

Doug Schweitzer weighed in on Friday's guilty verdict for Abdulahi Sharif, the man who attacked four pedestrians and a police officer in Edmonton two years ago.

"Glad to see that justice has been served, with the criminal having been found guilty of all 11 charges," tweeted Schweitzer. "Thank you to all the law enforcement officials and prosecutors involved for their hard work. I hope this will help to deter other such heinous acts."

Guilty verdict

A jury found Sharif guilty of trying to kill an Edmonton police officer and four pedestrians in a series of attacks two years ago.

Sharif, 32, was convicted in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Friday on all 11 charges he faced, including five counts of attempted murder. He was also found guilty on four counts of flight from police causing bodily harm and one count of aggravated assault.

The jury found Sharif used his white Chevrolet Malibu as a weapon on the evening of Sept. 30, 2017 when his car slammed into Const. Michael Chernyk, who was on special traffic duty near Commonwealth Stadium during an Edmonton Eskimos game.

After Chernyk flew through the air and landed on his back, Sharif calmly strode toward him, pulled out a knife and began to stab the officer in the chest and head. Then he fled on foot.

The jury also decided Sharif intended to kill four pedestrians who were hit by a rented U-Haul van he drove through downtown Edmonton hours after the attack on Chernyk. 

Hours after the conviction on Friday, Alberta's justice minister entered the fray. 

Jordan Stuffco, head of the Alberta Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association, said elected officials weighing in on verdicts is inappropriate.

"Would a minister of justice or prime minister or a premier congratulate an accused on an acquittal? Absolutely not," Stuffco said in an interview with CBC. 

He's asking Schweitzer to avoid opining publicly on court cases in the future.

Sentencing to come

Others are going further.

"It's very offensive. He should resign," said Tom Engel, a lawyer who briefly represented Sharif pre-trial.

With Sharif yet to go through sentencing, Engel said Schweitzer's tweet may make it look like he's asking for harsh penalties.

"He has to act dispassionately," Engel said.

CBC reached out to the justice ministry for comment. It responded by reissuing the tweet in an email.

With files from Raffy Boudjikanian