Prosecutors agreed Tuesday not to proceed with charges against four men accused of involvement in a plot for terrorist attacks in Canada, leaving 11 of the 18 originally arrested still facing charges.
A judge approved the decision to stay proceedings against Qayyum Abdul Jamal, Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, Ibrahim Aboud and Yasim Mohamed. A stay essentially means the charges are dropped unless the prosecution reactivates them within a year.
Dan Brien, a spokesman with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, declined to say why the charges were stayed.
The four men were alleged by officials in 2006 to be part of a larger plot to storm Parliament Hill and set off bombs in Toronto and Ottawa. A defense lawyer said then that some of the 18 original suspects were charged with planning to take hostages at Parliament and possibly behead the prime minister if demands for the release of Muslim prisoners in Afghanistan were not met.
Prosecutors decided last year not to proceed with charges against three of the four teenage suspects arrested in the case. Tuesday's move left 11 people still facing charges, including one teen who is now on trial.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Jamal, Ghany and Aboud agreed to several conditions restricting their activities for a year, including observing a curfew, avoiding communications with others charged in the alleged plot and not applying for a passport.
Free on bail
All three were already free on bail.
"It's a good feeling. Now I feel I'm really free, and I can move on with my life," Jamal told reporters outside the courthouse in a Toronto suburb.
Mohamed was serving a two-year sentence for smuggling a gun across the border when the other suspects were arrested. Police alleged the smuggling was part of the broader plot. He has since been released and prosecutors said Tuesday that they did not contemplate further proceedings against him.
Answer Farooq, a defense lawyer, said Jamal spent 16 months in custody, 13 of them in solitary confinement, and was released on bail in November.
Trial proceedings are under way for the remaining teen still charged in the alleged plot. Prosecutors say he attended a training camp where he participated in military exercises and firearms training. His identity is protected by Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The first witnesses are expected to be called in late May. One of the first is expected to be Mubin Shaikh, a former Canadian army cadet and Islamic activist who went public with his story of how he infiltrated and spied on the alleged terror cell members before their arrests.