Thursday, April 19, 2007

Two Arrested in Montreal for Carrying Out Racist Anti-Jewish Attacks

Azim Ibragimov, left, and Omar Bulphred face nine charges for carrying out anti-Semitic attacks in Montreal over the past six months

i missed this news item when i was out of town last week: two men have been arrested for carrying out anti-Semitic attacks in Snowdon/Cote-des-Neiges area in Montreal.

Here is the article:

Pair denied bail
Men charged with crimes targeting city's Jewish community

The Gazette
Friday, April 13, 2007
Sue Montgomery
and Paul Cherry

Two Montreal men have been accused of a raft of attacks against the city’s Jewish community, including the firebombing of a Snowdon community centre that police are treating as a hate-related crime.

Omar Bulphred, 21, and Azim Ibragimov, 23, appeared briefly in Quebec Court on Friday to be arraigned on charges stemming from incidents that began last fall. Both were denied bail.

The case is due back in court on Monday, at which time a date could be set for a bail hearing.

In addition to their alleged roles in a rash of firebombings, the two are accused of conspiring to commit kidnapping and armed robbery. But it’s not known who or what their potential victims were.

The pair were arrested Thursday morning and questioned. The investigation did not turn up links to any terrorist or hate groups, said Constable Christian Emond, of the Montreal police fraud and arson squad.

“What we can say is that the crimes are hate-related, however,” he said.

“The evidence we’ve accumulated will be brought out in a trial and it will be up to a judge to use this to impose a stiffer sentence” if there is a conviction.

“We deem it to be hate-related because the proof we have indicates the motivation was there.”

Each man is charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to forcibly confine someone. Those crimes are alleged to have taken place between March 30 and April 8.

They also face charges of possession of an explosive in connection with the Sept. 2 firebombing of Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys School in Outremont.

Each faces one count of damage to property by fire or explosion after a car parked on de l’Authion Ave. in the city’s Mercier district was firebombed Sept. 12.

As well, the two are alleged to have uttered death threats against a member of the Jewish community, and to have threatened to burn, destroy or damage property belonging to the Jewish community.

The most recent attack occurred on April 3, the first day of Passover, when a firebomb exploded at the YM-YWHA Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre, also known as the Snowdon Y. Employees called police at 11:15 p.m. after they heard an explosion at the facility’s main entrance on Westbury Ave. No one was injured and there was no damage to the building.

In the case of the Sept. 2 school firebombing, video surveillance cameras showed a masked man throwing a Molotov cocktail through the front door. The resulting fire was brought under control quickly. Damage to the building was minimal.

During their probe of the firebombings, investigators uncovered a conspiracy to commit armed robbery and to kidnap someone, Emond said.

“Of course, the investigators did everything they could to abort that plan as soon as possible,” he said.

The investigation began after the firebombing at the school. Seven days later, Montreal police came across a letter linked to that attack.

“The person who wrote the letter had intimate details of the firebombing,” Emond said. “Obviously, the person who wrote it was tied to the crime.

“We can’t say exactly how the letter was discovered. What we can say is that the information was not made public at that time because was it was deemed important that we keep it to ourselves. In the long run, it proved to be the right decision. It helped us a lot in determining who the suspects were.”

At the Sept. 12 car bombing, police found another letter at the scene that helped investigators link that incident to the attack at the school.

While probing this month’s firebombing at the Snowdon Y, investigators pieced everything together.

“The evidence and clues investigators were able to gather pointed to all three incidents were caused by the same individuals,” Emond said.

He said he could not divulge how long the men were considered suspects.

Crown prosecutor Gianni Cuffaro wouldn’t say much about the case Friday, except that the investigation continues.

Alexandre Bergevin, the lawyer for the two accused, said police used wiretaps to close in on his clients.

“Other than that, I have very little information about the evidence,” Bergevin said in an interview. “I wasn’t even allowed to meet with them at the courthouse, so won’t see them until sometime over the weekend.”

Jeffrey Boro, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said police told him the two suspects are Canadian-born Muslims of Russian descent.

“That makes it very disconcerting for those who live here,” he said. “We’re raising people here with such hatred in their hearts for people they’ve never met or had anything to do with.”

He said police had informed the CJC they’d found material during the investigation that suggested the crimes were motivated by hate toward Jewish people.

Sarah Elgazzar, of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed dismay the accused are Muslims and hoped that fact wouldn’t increase the animosity between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Montreal.

“Religiously speaking, Jews and Muslims should be so close,” she said. “Sure, there are differences, and there are problems in other parts of the world, but that doesn’t justify these kinds of attacks.

“Most Muslims would never even think of doing something like that; it’s horrible.”

It is unclear if the two are also being charged with the neo-nazi graffiti that has gone up in the area over the past year or so. In January 2007 swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans were spraypainted in Russian on the Snowdon Y and the Jewish Community Centre. A year earlier - in January 2006 - similar Russian-language graffiti had gone up in the area, pointing people towards the Russian National Socialist Organization. Cote-des-Neiges and Snowdon is home to many people from the former Soviet Union - both Jewish and non-Jewish - who immigrated over the past sixteen years.

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