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Crown prosecutor David McKercher. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Crown prosecutor David McKercher. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A Crown prosecutor returns to the ring Add to ...

A couple of years ago, an exasperated Ottawa judge lost his patience with a Crown prosecutor.

Why, the judge erupted, was David McKercher delving into a seemingly endless "welter" of strange South Asian names and globetrotting networks? Why couldn't the prosecutor, the judge asked, refine his allegations to a simpler story about how an alleged terrorist built remote-controlled bomb detonators in his Canadian home.

But Mr. McKercher and his co-counsels persevered, past the tricky nature of the international evidence and through the quagmires of Canada's criminal-justice system.

In his soft-spoken, unassuming way, the bespectacled lawyer swayed the court. It took years, but they put a would-be terrorist - Momin Khawaja - behind bars, where he remains today. In doing so, the team garnered Canada's first significant conviction under the Anti-Terrorism Act, enacted in 2001. Only a handful of cases have ever been launched under the law.

Mr. McKercher must surely be a glutton for punishment: After spending five years pursuing the Khawaja conviction, he was back in court Thursday to embark on a similar journey all over again.

This time, he was initiating proceedings against Hiva Alizadeh and Misbahuddin Ahmed, arrested this week. Like Mr. Khawaja before them, they are young Muslims from Ottawa. The allegations, as in the previous case, include an alleged conspiracy involving circuit-board detonators and terrorist training abroad.

Publication bans on evidence will likely be requested by defence lawyers to preserve the accused's rights to a fair trial. The defence could also press for the revelation of state secrets, and force the Crown to make the Hobson's choice: Tilt its hand or drop its case.

Myriad constitutional challenges will no doubt be launched.

But if the judge has the patience to hear the story in full, the names of mysterious and unarrested co-conspirators will surface, speaking to how authorities believe global terrorists radicalize, travel, scheme and congregate.

And if the past is any indication, it's certain to be a slog.

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