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Hi everyone. Mark Iype in Edmonton today.

The trio of men accused of being the ringleaders of the 2022 Coutts, Alta. border blockade over government-imposed pandemic restrictions remained defiant after being found guilty of mischief over $5,000 on Tuesday evening.

The Court of King’s Bench trial of Alex Van Herk, Marco Van Huigenbos and George Janzen, came to a conclusion after the jury delivered its verdict to a quiet and stunned courtroom of supporters just after 8:30 p.m.

The six men and six women deliberated for a little more than four hours, before being led back into the Lethbridge courtroom to announce their decision. The convicted men will be sentenced at a later date when they face up to 10 years in jail.

Outside the courthouse, after learning their fate, Van Herk and Van Huigenbos said they do not expect to appeal the decision. Janzen declined to comment.

Van Huigenbos said while worried about going to jail, he is proud of the group’s actions.

“Government tyranny, government abuse, and government overreach has to be countered to maintain a balance in society,” he told reporters.

He said he would do it again if similar circumstances emerged.

Van Herk said he is prepared to go to jail and he too is proud of what he did at Coutts.

“I just hope there is accountability coming forward from this for the politicians for why we had to go there,” he said. “What was happening in our country and our province at that time, it forced good people to do uncivil things to be heard.

“We tried every other avenue,” he said. “Accountability needs to be there.”

Steven Johnston, the Crown prosecutor, directed requests for comment to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.

Around 80 supporters had gathered earlier in the day in the courtroom to hear closing arguments from the Crown and defence in the trial which began on April 3.

The two-week trial included testimony from a handful of Crown witnesses, including RCMP officers who attended the scene in 2022. The defence presented no evidence, and the accused did not testify.

In closing arguments, the opposing sides made their final cases before the jury was sent to decide whether the men should be convicted.

Johnston told the jury they did not have to believe the three men were in charge of the blockade, or even that they were present at Coutts the entire time. Hundreds of people massed on Highway 4 at the Alberta-Montana border during the two-week anti-government, anti-pandemic-restriction protest.

“The right to protest does not let you lay siege to property for two weeks. It was not their highway to close,” Johnston said.

“One act, one statement of encouragement, can be enough to convict.”

Johnston argued the three men were more than simple messengers, passing on information between protesters and police. He pointed to their use of “we, our, and us” in videos from Coutts as evidence they were not outsiders brought in to negotiate.

Mounties testified that the three were seen as leaders among the group of protesters as police officers increasingly turned to them to negotiate.

The Canadian Press reported that RCMP Sergeant Greg Tulloch testified last week that, as communication was established with the protesters, Van Huigenbos was seen as the main contact.

Tulloch said he considered Van Huigenbos to be central to the “inner circle of the protest,” followed by Janzen and, to a lesser degree, Van Herk.

On Tuesday, defence lawyers argued that the three men played smaller roles and did not organize, lead or instruct the blockade’s participants.

Ryan Durran, the lawyer representing Van Huigenbos, said his client was nothing more than an “errand boy for the RCMP and disgruntled protesters.”

“He stumbled into a position as a spokesperson. Circumstances conspired so that he became the point of contact with the RCMP,” Durran said. “That doesn’t make him a leader. You might as well blame the postman because he brings you your bills.”

Lawyers for the other men made a similar case to the jury.

Van Herk’s lawyer, Michael Johnston, said his client simply had a desire to protect people with whom he shared a political ideology.

Alan Honner said his client, Janzen, helped the police throughout the two-week demonstration.

“He makes no demand. He gets nothing for it. He is just being helpful,” Honner told the jury.

This trial is separate from the case of four men who were charged with conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the same protest. Two of those men pleaded guilty to lesser offences in February, while a trial for the remaining two is scheduled for May.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief Mark Iype. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.

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