Toronto

Alek Minassian's father denies tailoring evidence to help son in van attack trial

Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. His father, Vahe Minassian, told court his son has not shown remorse or apologized for his actions.

Vahe Minassian told court his son has not shown remorse for his actions

Vahe Minassian, pictured here in a court sketch from Monday, broke down when he told court about hearing his son was the main suspect in the van attack. (Pam Davies/CBC)

The father of the man who killed 10 people in Toronto's van attack denied Tuesday that he was tailoring his testimony to help his son, telling the prosecution he was just trying to accurately describe Alek Minassian to the court.

Vahe Minassian, who was called to testify by the defence, spent hours under intense questioning from the Crown at the trial that's being conducted over video conference.

Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. He's admitted to planning and carrying out the 2018 attack, and argues he should be found not criminally responsible due to autism — a rare defence.

Crown attorney Cynthia Valarezo zeroed in on testimony Vahe Minassian gave Monday about a clip of an interview his son gave to police after the attack.

The video shows Alek Minassian alone in a room after a detective has left. He leans forward and bows his head. The sound of what appear to be sniffles can be heard.

Vahe Minassian had said after watching the clip at trial that he believed his son was muttering under his breath at the time, and not sniffling.

He also said he has never seen his son cry in his life.

That was different from what he told a psychiatrist last year when asked to comment on the video, Valarezo said. The elder Minassian had told the doctor his son was "breaking down and crying," she said.

"The reason why you're changing what you're saying is because you are trying your best to tell this court what you think they need to hear to help your son out," Valarezo said.

"That's actually not true," Vahe Minassian said.

Father says son shows little emotion due to autism

On Monday, the elder Minassian painted his son as a man with little to no emotion due to autism spectrum disorder.

He said his son showed no remorse, offered no apology and did not understand what he did was wrong.

The Crown disputed that, pointing to the elder Minassian's testimony about his son's love for his family.

"You realize information about Alek's lack of emotion has an important impact on this court," Valarezo said.

"That's not an accurate characterization either, I've simply done my best to to convey my lifetime of memories," Vahe Minassian shot back.

Alek Minassian's state of mind at the time is the only issue at play in the trial.

Court heard last week that a psychiatrist hired by the defence found Minassian had an "autistic way of thinking" that was similar to psychosis.

Autism Canada denounces claims

Seeking a not-criminally-responsible finding means the defence must prove beyond a balance of probabilities that it's more likely than not that Minassian had a mental disorder that impacted his actions to the extent that he didn't understand what he was doing was wrong.

Minassian's lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said Monday that while his client may intellectually understand what he did was wrong, he cannot rationally comprehend what he did was wrong.

On Tuesday, Autism Canada denounced what it described as "egregious claims" made by the defence at trial.

"Autism Canada wishes to respond emphatically that these claims are wholly unsubstantiated, merely speculative, and made carelessly without any published evidence proving autism, on its own, is a risk factor for becoming violent against other people," the organization wrote.

It noted, as has the defence, that people with autism are far more likely to be victims of violence and bullying than perpetrators.


Here are stories from the previous days of the trial:

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