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Friday, March 7, 2014

The Ezra Levant libel trial witnessed one of the most bizarre scenes to ever happen in a Canadian court

Thursday was an unusual day, not only for Sun News host Ezra Levant's trial in which he is accused of libeling former Canadian Islamic Congress activist Khurran Awan, but for Canadian court procedure in general.

The day's proceedings began with yet another lawyer being called to the stand. On Wednesday, the Canadian Islamic Congress' lawyer, Faisal Joseph, a highly competent and well-regarded attorney, provided testimony that if correct, may have called into question some of the assertions that Levant has made about Awan.

But Levant's side one-upped Awan's by calling the eminent Canadian barrister Julian Porter, who represented Macleans magazine in the proceedings launched by Awan and his fellow Islamic activists. Porter's account shredded the credibility of Awan's version of the terms that he and his cohorts unsuccessfully tried to impose on Macleans. Porter effectively refuted Awan's assertions about events when he and his friends objected to the magazine publishing an article by Mark Steyn that raised alarms about the alleged negative influence of Muslim culture on North America. Since Awan is suing Levant for calling him a "liar," if the judge determines Porter's testimony was accurate, it may prove to be a pivotal point in the trial.

But the real treat for observers was in the afternoon when Levant's side called a lunatic, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist by the name of Greg Felton to testify. Felton's testimony was broadcast to the court from Vancouver via teleconferencing,  The upside down spectacle of pro-Israel, pro-America Levant calling a rabidly anti-Semitic, 9-11 conspiracy nut to establish that Awan had boasted about inflicting financial punishment on Macleans through lawfare for offending Muslims was one of the strangest things I have ever observed in a courtroom.

Felton quoted Awan as having said "The only explanation is that the tribunal rendered a political decision, not a legal one. It could just as easily have ruled in our favour. Nevertheless, we do not plan to appeal the decision because we attained our strategic objective—to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material.”

So in a turnabout, Levant's side had to establish that Felton exercised diligence in his journalistic practice and Awan's side tried to show that Felton was neither credible nor particularly sane. Both sides did a good job, but Awan's attorney may have been more successful in his mission. He had the advantage of Felton's irrational, paranoid obsession with bizarre conspiracies.

But there is a factor that did not emerge in court that makes the entire Felton testimony, and Awan's counsel making the conspiracy zealot look like a fool, even more confusing.

The Canadian Islamic Congress, for which Awan served as national Youth President, regularly published antisemitic articles by Felton at the time Awan was with the organization.  So in effect, Awan was establishing that he was a senior member of an organization promoting antisemitism and discreditable paranoid conspiracies. Among the things Felton claimed on the stand was that US President Obama is a tool of Zionists, that al Qaeda does not exist, and that Israel was responsible for 9-11 and the Kennedy assassination. He also claimed mini-nuclear weapons caused the Twin Towers to fall on September 11, 2001.

As an end result of Felton's trial appearance, it's hard to figure out which side he hurt more. Which side the scale on that matter tips will depend on whether or not the judge determines that just because Felton's crazy, it doesn't mean he's lying. There was a certain obsessive/compulsive characteristic to Felton's description of his approach to quoting subjects which made his statements about  his recording of Awan's statement convincing. Just how convincing remains to be seen.

Tomorrow is the final day of the trial, during which Levant will take the stand and counsel for both sides will provide their summations.


Anonymous said...

Too bad Levant didn't think of introducing Felton's CIC columns as evidence. It's too late now, they can hardly introduce it now as "new evidence" that they just discovered.

Richard K said...

Agreed. But Mr. Mackinnon (Ezra's lawyer) did make reference to the CIC publishing them in his questioning of Felton. In resposne, Felton did testify that he wrote the articles for the Canadian Arab News and that the Canadian Islamic Congress may have republished them without his permission, so perhaps Mr. Mackinnon may be able to at least make a passing reference to that in his summation.

Maikeru said...

Felton's testimony illustrates that the Court is sitting to hear what commonly occurs online in, say, a political discussion forum.