By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 15, 2022.
Lawyers representing several individuals charged last year in a human trafficking case are still waiting for disclosure from Specialized Prosecutions in Calgary, despite a promise a month ago that the information was “on its way.”
Several lawyers whoÂ appeared in Lethbridge provincial court Friday on behalf of five of the accused men said they had either received only a small amount of information or none at all since their clients were arrested and charged last August. Calgary lawyer Rabie Ahmed has expressed concern a number of times during previous court hearings, and said the delays have to be attributed directly to the Crown’s office.
During a hearing Dec. 17 Ahmed said the small amount of disclosure he had received wasÂ “wholly, wholly inadequate,” and he reminded court that the case is steadily pushing toward a deadline set by the Jordan decision, which is to ensure an accused is tried within a reasonable amount of time. That time is 18 months between the charges and trial in provincial court, without a preliminary hearing, and 30 months in superior courts.
Calgary Crown Prosecutor Ron Simenik responded last month that the voluminous amount of information for which lawyers have been waiting – and not always patiently – hadÂ finally been sent by the Lethbridge Police Service to the Crown’s office, and would immediately be passed on to the lawyers.
“It’s on its way,” Simenik promised.Â Â
Ahmed, who has been prepared to take a step for several weeks, said Friday he is not willing to wait any longer. Despite the lack of disclosure, Ahmed entered not guilty pleas on behalf of his client, Khalid Alsaid, who is charged with sexual assault, sexual assault of a person under the age of 16, sexual contact with a child, sexual counsel of a child, and failure to comply with release conditions.
The matter is scheduled to return to court Feb. 18.
Charges against four other accused were also adjourned until next month while they wait to receive disclosure. Accused Abdullah Mohammad returns to court Feb. 4; Mohammad Neirabani and Mahmoud Neirabani, Feb. 11; and Mohammad Zafari, Feb. 17.
Calgary lawyer Gillian Wosney, who acted as agent for Calgary lawyer Kaysi Fagan during Friday’s hearing, said Fagan’s matter for Zafari has also been in court several times while she waits on the Crown’s office.
“This is her fifth appearance on the matter,” Wosney said. “She has yet to receive any disclosure.”
Wosney pointed out requests were faxed to Specialized Prosecutions on Aug. 23, Oct. 21 and Dec. 10.
Although some lawyers have not received any disclosure, or very little, others are at least starting to receive some, and there is going to be a lot of it.
Michelle Carrigan, student at law who was agent for Calgary lawyer Jeanine Zahara during Friday’s hearing, said Zahara has received 132 disclosure notices, and the Crown is only about half done.
Three other adults – Noor Ziyaad, Fadi Chtewi, Meriton Krasniqi – and two youth who cannot be identified, are also charged in relation to the human trafficking case. They were not in court Friday, but are scheduled for court hearings in the coming days and weeks.
Following the arrest of all 10 individuals in August, police said several men selected and groomed a 15-year-old girl and took her to specific locations where sex offences took place. The same individuals had also engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl, and three additional victims came forward later in connection with the investigation.
The charges include sexual interference, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, and all of the accused except Alsaid face charges of trafficking persons under the age of 18. All the accused have been released on bail.
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