One Month Later, No Terrorism Charges in Edmonton Attack
The attack started when a man driving a white Chevrolet Malibu careened through a police checkpoint outside a Saturday night football game, knocking a police constable to the ground and attacking him with a flurry of blows with a knife.
It ended a few hours later, when police flipped a U-Haul truck used by the same suspect to crash through pedestrians along Jasper Avenue.
One woman remains in hospital, but remarkably, no one was killed.
To many, what happened in Edmonton on Sept. 30 was a terrorist attack. Police Chief Rod Knecht said it was being investigated as such during a 3 a.m. news conference that morning. On a recent visit to Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident an act of terrorism.
But one month later, no terrorism charges have been laid.
Legal and terrorism experts say the gap between the public perception of the attack and the lack of terrorism-related charges highlights the difficult task investigators and prosecutors face in proving why someone did something.
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif faces 11 charges, including five counts of attempted murder. In 2015, Sharif had been investigated for “espousing extremist ideology” and an Islamic State group flag was seized from the car. But police believe Sharif acted alone.
Terrorism charges have not been laid, RCMP Sgt. Jack Poitras said Tuesday, but investigators with Alberta RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team have not ruled out the possibility.
Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor of international affairs at Carleton University, said there’s a difference between calling something a terrorist attack and laying an actual terrorism charge. Similar questions arose earlier this year after a gunman killed six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, she said. The attack was widely described as an act of terror, but terrorism charges were not laid in the case.
“You actually have to prove not just the fact that somebody was going to do something or they did it, but that they did it for a specific political, religious or ideological reason,” she said.
“That’s actually extra work, and it’s difficult to prove — to the point where this guy apparently had an ISIS flag in his car, but it might not actually be enough to say he did it for that reason.”