Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Crown prosecutor David McKercher.

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies