The lawyer representing the Ottawa twin brothers charged with terrorism-related offences Friday says their arrest came as “a surprise to me and to them.”
The 24-year-old twins, Carlos and Ashton Larmond, both from the Vanier area of Ottawa, have been the subject of a lengthy national security criminal investigation, according to the RCMP.
Joseph Addelman, a criminal defence lawyer who has represented both brothers in the past, said the charges date back as far as August 2013. At court in Ottawa on Saturday, he said his clients intend to “vigorously defend” themselves against the allegations.
Carlos Larmond was arrested Friday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport “as he was intending to travel overseas for terrorist purposes,” RCMP said. Ashton Larmond was arrested in Ottawa.
Speaking to the Toronto Star late Saturday, Addelman said he had yet to receive evidence or arrest reports from the prosecutor.
“I can tell you based on what I saw going on this morning, I don’t think they were planning to arrest them this weekend,” he said. “I don’t have the arrest reports, but one was at an airport, maybe they weren’t planning to arrest anybody until he turned up at an airport.”
Addelman said he could not disclose his client’s previous charges, but that they were “relatively minor.” A source told the Star outstanding charges against Carlos Larmond in Gatineau may include marijuana possession.
In the wake of the recent deadly terrorist activity in Canada and around the world, Addelman said police were “out there looking to lay these charges.”
“This is the new craze right? This is what our police are into,” he said.
Ashton Larmond has been charged with:
• Facilitating terrorist activity
• Participation in the activity of a terrorist group
• Instructing to carry out activity for a terrorist group
Carlos Larmond has been charged with:
• Participation in the activity of a terrorist group
• Attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activity abroad
On some counts, the twins are alleged to have conspired with each other from August 2014 to January 2015, Addelman told the Star. On one count, related only to Ashton, he said the timeframe is from August 2013 to January 2015.
Addelman would not comment on where Carlos Larmond was allegedly planning on flying. He said the rare and “very serious” charges, which could lead to life imprisonment, had come as a shock to him and his clients.
“There’s not many (people charged with terrorism-related offences) out there. People can get big, big sentences,” he said.
The case would be about determining “how much value the Canadian system truly places on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion,” Addelman said outside the courtroom Saturday.
“All Canadians have the right to express their religious beliefs and to participate in free assembly without that being a criminal offence,” he said.
Addelman said both brothers are Muslim, but he would not elaborate on how religion and freedom of assembly were factors in the case. He would not confirm whether or not his clients were converts to Islam.
Both Ashton and Carlos Larmond appeared individually in court on Saturday via video link. They were each instructed not to contact the other while in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
Addelman said he would not be representing both brothers at their next court appearance, which has been scheduled for Feb. 12 in Ottawa.
Both Ashton and Carlos Larmond played hockey for the Platt Hockey League, based in Gatineau, Que.
Ken Platt, who runs the league, told the Star Ashton had started playing for the league in September and participated in five or six games before quitting.
“He seemed like a nice guy, and a polite hockey player,” said Platt.
Carlos joined the league after Ashton quit and also played five or six games. Platt says they never met, but he was a “not-so-good” hockey player.
Safwan Choudhry, media spokesman for Stop the Crisis, a group set up to fight youth radicalization in Canada, said he was relieved that “our authorities are being proactive and catching suspected individuals.
“We are relieved to know our security services are doing their part to catch and diffuse any situation prior to it happening.”
Choudhry was not personally aware of the Larmond brothers, but said their arrest was part of an ongoing investigation by RCMP.
“These two were part of that. We are not sure how big it is,” he said
In Paris, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the arrests of the Larmond twins were not connected to the terror attacks in the French capital this week.
“The arrests yesterday are part of ongoing investigations that have been going for a while in Canada,” Blaney told reporters after he laid a wreath at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed.
“They are not linked in itself by exact link, but they are part of this extremist ideology and in that way, they are related but not necessarily in the same cell or groups.”
Blaney will take part in a unity rally and march, which will be held in Paris on Sunday. He said he met with the CSIS head of mission in Paris, will meet Sunday with his French counterpart and that Canada is also working with its other partners.
“We are working at an increased partnership in fighting against terrorists and more specifically foreign fighters,” he said.
In a later statement, Blaney’s spokesman Jason Tamming said such “high-risk travellers” pose “significant challenges” and Passport Canada has the authority to invalidate their travel documents.
“We will continue protecting law-abiding Canadian families from those who would seek to do them harm,” he added.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a rally to honour the victims, organized by a group of French and Canadian citizens, is being held at Nathan Phillips Square at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
- With files from The Canadian Press