Hashim Saadi trial to begin this week
The man who sent a letter threatening Muslim students at Concordia University in March 2017 was back in court on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Hashim Saadi wore blue jeans, an orange fleece sweater and a flannel scarf to court. He stood silently in front of the judge as his lawyer argued to have his bail conditions altered to allow him to attend a work training in March.
Saadi, a former doctoral candidate in economics at Concordia, is being charged with carrying out a terror-related hoax, uttering threats and mischief in connection with a bomb threat to Concordia’s Muslim student population. His trial will begin on Nov. 16.
On March 1, 2017, Saadi allegedly sent a letter to multiple Montreal media outlets threatening to set off bombs in the Hall building on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and the EV building on Ste-Catherine Street.
The targeted buildings were evacuated at 11:30 a.m., sending thousands of students onto the streets. Classes resumed at the university’s downtown campus at 6 p.m. that day. In the wake of the threats, the Concordia Student Union released a statement urging the university to cancel classes for the rest of the week.
The threatening letter, obtained by The Concordian, said that unless Concordia stopped religious activity of all kinds on campus, “small artisanal bombs” would be detonated in the university. “These are not meant to kill anybody,” the letter read. “The only aim is to injure some Moslem [sic] students.”
The letter was signed by the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, or C4. No such organization is listed on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s online list of hate groups in Canada. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the similarly named Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is an American white nationalist group. The group’s leader was contacted by CBC News on the day of the Concordia bomb threat. He denied involvement in or knowledge of the bomb threat.
A group called C4 does exist in Canada; it is called the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens. Their Facebook page listed their mandate as “to protect democracy and freedom of speech.” Several days after the bomb scare at Concordia, the group organized a demonstration in Trois-Rivières against M-103, the federal Liberal government’s motion condemning Islamophobia. Members of the group quoted by Le Nouvelliste newspaper said they thought the Concordia hoax was a plot to silence freedom of speech, citing the fact that Saadi is reportedly of Lebanese origin.
Multiple media outlets initially linked the bomb threats to a wave of anti-Muslim incidents which occurred in the wake of the Quebec City mosque shooting on Jan. 29, 2017, when six people were killed. The National Council of Canadian Muslims reported that two Montreal mosques had been vandalized in the weeks following the shooting.
After Saadi’s arrest on March 3, dozens of international media outlets, including The Arab Herald and Lebanese outlet The 961, reported the story and decried the bomb threat as a hoax. On March 7, conservative writer and radio talk-show host Dennis Prager used the Concordia bomb scare as an example of fake anti-Islamic incidents in an article titled “There is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism.”
Concordia confirmed that Saadi was a doctoral candidate in economics at the university before his arrest. Two of Saadi’s friends, who appeared at his bail hearing, described him as a non-practicing Muslim. Police searched his apartment after his arrest but reported they hadn’t found any explosive materials.
Saadi underwent a psychological evaluation upon his arrest. His trial is expected to last four days.
Photo by Ana Hernandez