The conviction and 40-year prison sentence for a young mentally ill Canadian who plotted terrorist attacks in New York City should be set aside, his lawyer argues in a new appeal brief.
The brief on behalf of Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy argues that the trial judge violated his rights, and the sentence handed down to him last December was unreasonably harsh.
“The District Court’s sentence of Bahnasawy to 40 years in the custody of an agency that indisputably could not provide him proper care was substantively unreasonable, shocking and at odds with American ideals of fair punishment,” the brief states.
“In relegating the young and impaired Bahnasawy to a virtual life in prison without proper care, the District Court gave lip service, but little more, to all of the mitigating factors that compelled a humane sentence.”
Canadian prisons provide the kind of mental health care that inmates like El Bahnasawy need, while the U.S. Bureau of Prisons does not, according to the factum filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Court records show El Bahnasawy was a 17-year-old living at home in Mississauga, Ont., when he met an undercover FBI agent online. The defence argued the agent encouraged him to plan attacks on the Big Apple, while prosecutors maintained the plot was well underway before the two connected.
The FBI, with help from the RCMP, arrested the then-18-year-old El Bahnasawy at a hotel on the outskirts of New York in May 2016. Investigators said he had bought bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of the city for the purpose of building explosive devices.
El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in District Court for the Southern District of New York later in 2016. The plans involved conspirators arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines and called for attacks on the New York subway and Times Square.
The appeal brief argues that Judge Richard Berman was wrong to ignore El Bahnasawy’s right to lawyers of his choice. Despite months of prevarication, the brief states, the young Canadian ultimately told the judge he wanted to be represented by private lawyers, rather than legal-aid lawyers, who wanted to step down.
Berman, however, ordered both sets of lawyers to be “equally responsible” for defending him. That decision, his lawyers now argue, undermined any challenge to the guilty plea he had entered on advice of his public lawyers, and violated his constitutional right to counsel of his choice.
The submission by lawyer Andrew Frisch decries the lengthy sentence Berman imposed despite evidence about El Bahnasawy’s youth, mental illness and severe addictions. The judge, who said the risk of a repeat offence was high, ignored El Bahnasawy’s treatment progress and disavowal of violence, his lawyer says.
“The true risk of a sentence of 40 years on this especially robust record is not that the maturing Bahnasawy might one day conspire again, but that we do irreparable harm to the ideals most likely to keep us safe,” Frisch states.
In a letter previously filed with the District Court, El Bahnasawy said he was motivated by American air strikes in the Middle East and expressed regret.
“There are many issues in this world but I don’t want to lose my life or freedom to try fixing them, and I definitely do not want to resort to violence or harm to fix them,” El Bahnasawy wrote. “I sincerely apologize for my (behaviour) and I only ask for a second chance.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2019.
Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force co-chair explains why she now backs 2nd dose delay – CBC.ca
The co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force says she’s now “very much in favour” of delaying the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines for shots that must be administered under a two-dose regimen.
It’s a relatively new reversal for Dr. Catherine Hankins, who told CBC Radio’s The House that she resisted the idea of extending the interval between first and second doses as recently as January.
“I didn’t feel that we had the data,” Hankins told host Chris Hall. “But the population, real-world data coming in from the U.K., from Israel and even from B.C. and Quebec are convincing to me.”
On Wednesday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the maximum interval between the two doses should be stretched to four months to increase the number of people receiving their first shot.
The committee previously recommended that the maximum interval between Pfizer-BioNTech doses should be three weeks, a number that climbed to four weeks for the Moderna vaccine and 12 weeks for the AstraZeneca-Oxford product. The newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot is a single-dose vaccine.
The updated guidance comes from findings from two clinical trials examining the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines after a single dose, as well as population health data from several countries — and two Canadian provinces — on how well those shots performed after being administered once.
While the population studies yielded lower efficacy results after one dose than the clinical trials, NACI said the difference was expected given that vaccine effectiveness tends to be lower in the general population than it is under the controlled setting of a clinical trial.
CBC News: The House15:50Vaccination frenzy grips Canada
One dose still confers benefits — and reduces transmission
Hankins said it was the population health data that convinced her to change course.
“Basically, it’s showing that you have sustained protection … for two months, in terms of reducing hospitalizations and deaths, including against this B117 variant that was first identified in the U.K.,” she said.
“So you have those benefits to the individuals that get the single dose, but you have then this additional benefit that they showed in Israel, that people who get infected after they’ve had the vaccine … are much less likely to transmit to other people.”
Hankins, who is also a professor of public and population health at McGill University in Montreal, cautioned that the new recommendation does not mean people should forgo the second dose altogether.
“What’s clear is we can offer more individuals the direct benefit that [a] single dose will bring, plus the indirect benefit of reduced transmission that will avert hospitalizations and deaths for people who don’t yet have the vaccine. So to me, it’s a win-win situation.”
Before NACI released its guidelines, British Columbia had already moved to implement a four-month gap in administering doses. A number of other provinces have now extended their dose intervals to widen initial rollout efforts.
Science continues to evolve
The decision has its critics — Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, on Monday called B.C.’s plan a “population level experiment,” a comment Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said was “unfortunate.”
Nemer told CBC’s Power & Politics that data from Pfizer and Moderna is based on first and second doses being spaced weeks apart, rather than months.
Hankins said she understands the confusion that can arise from mixed messaging, but noted that the evidence is clear that one dose can confer a degree of protection and help curb chains of transmission.
“I would say this is a very pragmatic public health policy decision,” she said. “It’ll be monitored very, very closely, both in terms of breakthrough infections, variants and how they’re being dealt with, etc.”
And that means scientific guidance could change again.
“I think it’s important for the public to realize that we are gathering data all the time and it’s helping inform decisions, and they should expect there to be changes as we go forward,” Hankins said.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Burnaby Now
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Alberta’s chief medical health officer says there are 341 new COVID-19 cases in the province in the previous 24 hours, and one additional death.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says in a series of tweets that the new cases include 36 which are tied to virus variant of concern.
She says there are 4,649 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, with the number of those hospitalized falling to 247.
She says 42 of those patients are in intensive care.
Hinshaw says today’s test positivity rate is 4.1 per cent.
Saskatchewan is reporting three new COVID-19 deaths among residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
The province’s daily pandemic update says all three were from the Saskatoon zone and ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s.
The update also notes there 163 new COVID-19 cases in the province today.
Saskatchewan has 1,613 cases that are considered active, and 142 people currently in hospital with the virus.
Nunavut is reporting another four new cases of COVID-19 today.
All are in Arviat, bringing the total number of active cases there to 21.
The community is the only one in Nunavut with active cases.
Officials also reported four additional cases in Arviat on Friday, plus 10 the day before.
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said Friday that despite the new cases, the outbreak in the community is contained.
Manitoba is reporting one new COVID-19 death today — a woman in her 20s in the Winnipeg health region.
The daily pandemic update from the province notes there were 66 new COVID-19 cases as of 9:30 this morning, six of which are the variant originally found in the United Kingdom and three of which are a variant first detected in South Africa.
The update says Manitoba’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 3.1 per cent provincially and 2.2 per cent in Winnipeg.
There are 1,114 active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, with 158 patients in hospital.
New Brunswick health authorities are reporting six new cases of COVID-19.
Officials say all six patients are self-isolating and contact tracing is underway.
There are now 35 reported active COVID-19 infections in New Brunswick with three people in hospital, including two in intensive care.
Public health has confirmed 1,453 cases in the province since the onset of the pandemic, including 28 deaths.
Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting two new cases of COVID-19.
Officials say both cases are close contacts of previously identified patients.
Authorities say there are now 87 active reported COVID-19 cases across the province.
All but two of those infections are in the eastern health region, where an outbreak spread rapidly through the St. John’s metro area last month.
Nova Scotia health officials are reporting six new cases of COVID-19 today.
Authorities say all six infections are connected to travel or to previously identified cases.
Public health says there are now 29 active reported cases of COVID-19 across the province, with two people in hospital with the disease.
There have been 1,657 infections reported in the province since the onset of the pandemic.
Quebec is reporting 749 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus.
The province also says it administered 19,865 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, marking a new single-day high for Quebec’s immunization drive.
Hospitalizations in the province declined by 16 to 601 today, while the number of patients in intensive care decreased by two to 109.
Ontario is reporting comparatively low COVID-19 case figures today, logging 990 new infections and six virus-related deaths over the past 24 hours.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region.
Two of those long-standing hotspots, Toronto and Peel, are due to rejoin the province’s COVID-19 response framework at the grey lockdown level starting on Monday.
The province is also reporting a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday’s update.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Ontario sees 990 new COVID-19 cases and 6 deaths – CBC.ca
Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths, according to the latest provincial figures.
The new daily case count brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in Ontario to 306,997.
Toronto saw 284 new cases while Peel Region saw 173. Both regions are under stay-at-home orders that are scheduled to lift on Monday. York Region reported 82 new cases.
WATCH | Hillier talks about vaccine rollout:
The update follows the release of Ontario’s accelerated vaccine rollout plan, which should see all adults 60 and older given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by early June — a month sooner than initially planned.
“That was very optimistic,” Dr. Peter Lin told CBC News on Saturday.
Lin applauded the province’s rollout strategy for including an option to space out shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by up to four months.
“[That] means more people can get vaccinated and the whole idea is to burn the virus out,” he said. “If you have lots of people vaccinated, the virus can’t find a new host and we could say goodbye to the virus quicker and get back to normal life faster.”
To date, Ontario has administered more than 860,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines with more than 270,600 people fully vaccinated. Toronto, the province’s largest city, is responsible for the administration of nearly 200,000 of those doses — a figure that amounts to more than 124,686 people being vaccinated.
In a Saturday news release, the city said 197,155 doses have been administered, and that several clinics are underway on Saturday to vaccinate hospital and community-based healthcare workers who are in Phase 1 priority groups.
Vaccine availability continues to be a stumbling block for cities, including Toronto, which has a population of more than 2.9 million.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in cases were:
- Ottawa: 60
- Thunder Bay: 54
- Halton Region: 34
- Waterloo Region: 33
- Durham Region: 32
- Lambton: 27
- Simcoe Muskoka: 27
- Windsor-Essex: 27
- Hamilton: 24
- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District: 19
- Sudbury: 17
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 17
- Eastern Ontario: 12
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)
2 regions to see restrictions eased Monday
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla told CBC News on Saturday that Canada’s approval of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — news that came after Ontario released its vaccine plan — should definitely help speed up the timeline.
“We’ll get to the point where vaccines are scaling up and up and up,” he said.
But he cautioned: “There may be turbulence for the next month or so.”
On Monday, stay-at-home orders in Toronto and Peel Region will be lifted, although both regions will stay in lockdown. Medical officers of health for both regions had urged caution ahead of the shift.
“Vaccines do us no good if they’re not in arms yet,” Dr. Lawrence Loh said at a Wednesday news conference. “We must stay the course.”
Last month, the province made a few changes to what people are allowed to do in a grey lockdown.
As of Monday, residents in Toronto and Peel Regions will be able to shop in person at reduced capacity: 50 per cent for grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies and 25 per cent for other retailers. Loitering in shopping malls or other stories will not be permitted. Individuals will still need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.
WATCH | Toronto and Peel Region to move into grey zone as stay-at-home order lifts on Monday
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