The trial of a 30-year-old Toronto man accused of terrorism charges in relation to a stabbing attack at a Canadian Forces recruiting centre has begun.
The defence is arguing Ayanle Hassan Ali should be found not criminally responsible because he was incapable of knowing his conduct was morally wrong at the time of the attack.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Ali walked the government building at 4900 Yonge St. on March 14, 2016 and attacked Cpl. Ryan Kong who was seated at the entrance of the centre. Ali punched Kong in the head repeatedly before trying to stab the soldier with a large kitchen knife resulting in a three-inch gash to the arm.
Documents said Ali then ran passed the front entrance into the recruiting centre where he saw another soldier, Sgt. Tracy Gerhardt who had come out of her office. Ali swung the knife at Gerhardt, barely missing the back of her neck the second time.
Witnesses described the scene as “confused and chaotic.”
The agreed statement of facts said Ali then tried to stab a third soldier, Sgt. Jesus Castillo who had slip and fallen to the floor. Castillo reported later having a small nick to his chest. He was bruised and sore from falling down. Castillo said he was unsure if the cut came from Ali’s knife or from the fall.
Court heard a number of soldiers tried to subdue Ali using a photocopier, a garbage can and a chair to stop him. Ali was finally pinned to the ground using a chair, before a number of soldiers piled on top of him. Officers were able to get control of the knife which came loose from his hand. The entire attack took less than a minute.
The court also heard some witnesses described Ali as a frantic man, who appeared to be laughing or giggling and was on something. One of the soldiers heard him shouting “Allahu Akhbar.” Others described him as being not present or in the clouds and said he appeared to be having a seizure or foaming at the mouth at the time of the takedown.
One of the soldiers who took him down said he grabbed Ali’s iPod and noticed it was open to chapter two of the Qur’an.
He told a paramedic who asked if he knew where he was and why he was there that, “Allah sent him to kill people.”
The defence called forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gary Chaimowitz as an expert witness. Chaimowitz told Justice Ian Macdonnell at the time of the attack that Ali was suffering from schizophrenia, was experiencing hallucinations, was hearing voices from everywhere, including the TV, and was paranoid that the government was after him. He said Ali was also feeling persecuted by a jinn or a genie.
“He was possessed by jinns. It appeared excessive and tied to his delusions,” Chaimowitz said.
After his arrest, Ali was originally deemed unfit to stand trial. However Chaimowitz told the court after taking anti-psychotic medication, Ali’s symptoms improved to a point where he was fit to stand trial.
Chaimowitz also told the court in a diary police seized from Ali’s home after his arrest, he wrote, “I have a licence to kill. One soldier is all it takes — just one.” He told the court Ali was apparently upset that the Canadians were bombing Syria. Chaimowitz said Ali had thought about taking off to another county and do something like killing people because it was a revenge and he would become a martyr.
“My belief is that his illness was active. Were it not for his illness, he would not have done what he did,” Chaimowitz told the court.
He told the court Ali could not tell right from wrong at the time of the attack. Chaimowitz said the psychosis drove his actions through which he is charged and it was sufficient to deprive him of knowing it was morally wrong.
The trial continues on Thursday.