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12/06/2011-Terrorism chat kept Pembroke man in jail for year.

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An Afghan man living in Pembroke, Ont., says allegations he was a terrorist threat kept him in jail for close to a year before he was finally acquitted of all charges.

Matin Stanikzy was 24 and working at a pizza parlour and a gas station in Pembroke when police arrested him in November 2010 on a number of charges, including assault, possessing explosives and uttering death threats.

Matin Stanikzy says his year in jail before being acquitted felt like 10 years.Matin Stanikzy says his year in jail before being acquitted felt like 10 years. CBC

 

The charges came after a woman came forward saying Stanikzy had assaulted her. Her identity cannot be revealed because of a court-issued publication ban.

 

But it was her other claims that got the RCMP special terrorism unit involved.

 

The woman, an employee at the Chalk River nuclear facility, said Stanikzy had asked her to get him some explosives.

RCMP probed explosive allegations

 

She also told police he was a terrorist and produced an audio tape in which he could be heard telling her that he wanted to blow up Canadian soldiers at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.

 

But Stanikzy said the charges came as a surprise to him.

 

At the police station, he said he heard officers discussing an Afghan man tied to terrorism and assumed it was someone else.

 

"By that time I was really happy because this Afghani guy is good for me because I want to make a friend," he said. "But I didn't know that was me."

 

The RCMP could find no links between Stanikzy and any known terrorist group, and found no evidence on his computer that he was researching how to make a bomb.

 

They also could not find any criminal record, either in Canada or Afghanistan, so they chose not to charge him under Canada's anti-terrorism laws.

Denied bail three times

 

However, Crown prosecutors pursued the charges and Stanikzy was denied bail three times because the Crown argued the terrorist connection made him too great a risk to be released before trial.

 

He spent close to a year at the Regional Detention Centre in Ottawa, which he said felt more like 10 years. He developed sleeping problems and said he began taking stress medication.

 

"I was innocent," he said. "I come to Canada to make life, you know. I didn't feel very well because I didn't know what was going in the future."

 

At Stanikzy's trial, his lawyer, Stuart Konyer, argued the audio recording was simply Stanikzy acting out his part in some role-playing instigated by the woman who went to police.

 

"Our position all along has been that those words were taken out of context and that they don't have the meaning that the complainant attributed to them. And that was entirely bolstered by the fact that there's an absence of any evidence of Matin taking any steps or harbouring any of these beliefs."

Acquitted of all charges

 

He was found not guilty of all charges in early November.

 

Konyer said a private conversation cost Stanikzy a year of his life.

 

"It's very troubling in my view. This man lost a year — he was in jail a year before he had his day in court and he was ultimately acquitted," Konyer said.

 

"Yet he's never going to get that year back and that's not the way the system is supposed to work."

 

Security analyst Wesley Wark said anti-terrorism authorities have widened their scope in recent years to include "lone wolves," people without any connections to known groups.

 

"What I think it speaks to is the kind of fear that now grips security authorities in Canada," Wark said.

 

"Security authorities like CSIS and the RCMP are on the lookout for these people but they don't really know what form they will take. So they tend to fasten on any example that points in that direction."

 

Stanikzy said he remains confused and frustrated by what happened, but has no intention of pursuing legal action and wants to put the whole incident behind him.

 

He does have permanent residency and has moved to Toronto, where he now hopes to study computer science.

 

"I'm a Muslim but I'm a social Muslim, not an extremist Muslim," he said. "And I want to make my life."

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