Charges laid in firebombing case

 

Bank targeted Three men appear in Ottawa courtroom

 
 
 

Amid talk of domestic terrorism and accusations of politically motivated arrests, three men charged after the firebombing of an Ottawa bank were led into court where charges against them were formally announced.

Police escorted Roger Clement, 58, Matthew Morgan-Brown, 32, Claude Haridge, 50, into an Ottawa courtroom packed with about 50 family members, friends and supporters.

Clement, the oldest suspect and on medication for a heart condition, stood in the prisoners' box looking relaxed in a denim shirt and jeans and occasionally smiling. Haridge, in a blue jailhouse jumpsuit, and Brown, who looked tense, stood alongside him.

The courtroom heard a bail hearing for the men will be held no later than Friday, and the men were taken back into custody. A publication ban prohibits reporting on evidence.

The May 18 firebombing caused about $500,000 in damage at a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood, located about two kilometres from Parliament Hill.

Authorities had feared it was the start of a "domestic terrorism" campaign launched by anarchists bent on acts of destruction at the G20 summit in Toronto.

The men do not face any terrorism charges at this time, although the police said yesterday their investigation was continuing and they would not rule out the possibility the three men could face terror charges.

"I firmly believe Ottawa is safer today than yesterday," Ottawa police Chief Vern White told a news conference.

"I would ask Ottawa residents t o remain vigilant before and during the G8 and G20, and continue to report any suspicious activity to police," White said.

"The expectation is that not everyone will protest in one location; this is still the nation's capital so it won't be a surprise if we have some protesters here."

Clement and Morgan-Brown are each facing four charges in relation to the firebombing: arson causing damage, possession of incendiary material, the use of explosives with intent to cause property damage and mischief.

Clement is a retired public servant, whose last job was at the Canadian International Development Agency.

Morgan-Brown is a well-known activist who was also arrested before the 2007 summit in Montebello, and charged with assaulting police.

Haridge is charged with failing to comply with an undertaking and the careless storage/ handling of ammunition.

Police said they recovered hundreds of rounds of .762-calibre ammunition.

Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon acted on behalf of the three accused yesterday. He downplayed the case's political overtones.

"The charges are essentially damage-to-property-related charges. There's no talk of terrorism by anybody except our chief of police," he said.

"I have to see the (prosecution's) evidence before I can make any real comment about whether actions are related to political beliefs."

Dan Sawyer a friend of the men and spokesman with a group called Ottawa Movement Defence, said the timing of the arrests may have been politically motivated.

With "the G20 coming up, I feel like the feds are under a lot pressured to justify their ($1-billion security) budget, so the timing (of the arrests) seems pretty lucky for them in terms of justifying that kind of budget," he said,

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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