A judge has ordered the man accused of attacking an Edmonton police officer and four other people in two separate attacks to undergo psychiatric assessments.
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, made a brief court appearance via closed circuit television on Tuesday morning, where his lawyer asked for two different assessments and the judge agreed.
“What we’re trying to do here is determine the extent of, or the mental affects and mental stability of Mr. Sharif,” defence attorney Karanpal Aujla said.
“The information I’ve given so far, which is very, very preliminary under the circumstances, all essentially indicate towards an individual who may be impacted mentally in certain ways.”
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The first assessment is to determine Sharif’s fitness to stand trial, while the second assessment is to figure out if he’s criminally responsible for the crimes he’s charged with.
“From the information I’m being told, from review of the initial disclosure, it appears to me that there certainly may be issues that pertain to mental health. So I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to actually know what the extent of that is,” Aujla said.
Sharif is charged with five counts of attempted murder, five counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of criminal flight causing bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon.
He’s accused of ramming a car into Const. Mike Chernyk outside Commonwealth Stadium before jumping out and stabbing the officer. Police said he fled and allege he later drove a U-Haul van through downtown Edmonton, deliberately striking four pedestrians.
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Chernyk was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He suffered stab wounds to the face and head, as well as significant abrasions on his arms, but was expected to make a full recovery.
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It’s been more than a month since the attacks took place. At the time, police chief Rod Knecht said police were investigating the incidents as “acts of terrorism.”
However, terrorism charges were not laid against Sharif and there is no word from the RCMP on whether terrorism-related charges will be laid in the case.
University of Alberta law professor Steven Penny said there’s “a lot of discretion” around the investigation and police and prosecutors may be weighing whether there’s a significant advantage to laying terrorism charges.
“It’s important to keep in mind in a case like this, that the allegations reveal unambiguously criminal conduct,” he said. “If someone is charged with attempted murder, especially if there are serious aggravating circumstances, that person could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
“So adding terrorism charges on top of that doesn’t necessarily give you any greater punishment or benefit from the prosecution’s perspective. So that may be something that may be going on here.”
Penny added terrorism charges are also more difficult to prove.
“There are additional elements that need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that wouldn’t be needed to be proved in the ordinary attempted murder-type of scenario,” he said.
“You have to prove, not just that the person committed the act, but they did so for specific motivational purpose — religious, political, ideological — and that they did so in an attempt to intimidate the public.”
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The office of Canada’s public safety minister said Sharif was able to make a successful asylum claim in Canada because there was no evidence of criminal activity. This was after U.S. authorities ordered him deported from their country.
An email from Customs and Border Protection in the U.S., revealed Sharif arrived, on foot, at a port of entry along the California-Mexico border, without any documents or legal status to enter the United States.
Being detained for immigration purposes in the United States would have no bearing on Sharif’s ability to make an asylum claim in Canada, the spokesman said.
Shortly after Sharif made his first court appearance in early October, U.S. officials confirmed an immigration judge had ordered Sharif in 2011 be “removed to Somalia.”
READ MORE: Absence of criminal activity allowed Edmonton terror suspect to enter Canada despite U.S. deportation order
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they transferred Sharif into custody at a San Diego detention centre on July 15, 2011, after customs officers brought him there.
Two months later, a judge ordered him returned to Somalia. ICE said Sharif waived his right to appeal.
Watch below: Suspect in Edmonton attacks ordered deported from U.S. in 2011
However, on Nov. 23, Sharif was released from custody “due to a lack of likelihood of his removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Sharif missed an appointment two months later, in January 2012, with the U.S. department overseeing deportations, and any efforts to locate him were unsuccessful.
Canadian documents obtained by Global News indicate the man showed up in Canada that same year, as a Somali refugee who indicated the federal government was sponsoring him for one year.
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Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office, however, said Sharif crossed into Canada at an official point of entry, claimed asylum and was granted refugee status later in 2012.
Aujla said he’s only begun to go through all the files sent from police and prosecutors.
A bail application has yet to be made.
— With files from Amy Minsky, Vassy Kapelos and Caley Ramsay.