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Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Last Updated Jun 14, 2021 at 10:01 pm EDT

Summary

The Crown says Nathaniel Veltman's four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism


The upgraded charges were laid as Veltman made a brief court appearance via video Monday morning


A funeral for the family was held Saturday at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario in London


Prosecutors say the attack against a Muslim family in southwestern Ontario that left four dead and one injured was an act of terrorism.

Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman had been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the June 6 incident in London, Ont.

Federal Crown Sarah Shaikh said prosecutors have now received consent from the country’s attorney general to go ahead with terrorism proceedings.

Veltman, who has yet to retain a lawyer, made a brief court appearance via video Monday morning and said he understood the new charges.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.

Police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims.

Mubin Shaikh, who worked at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, said the upgraded charge was a good symbolic gesture.

“There’s confusion because there is terrorism in the popular sense of the word and terrorism that is the legal application. Now that we’re seeing it in the legal application, it reinforces that larger public narrative and I think that is the precedent-setting aspect to it,” he told CityNews.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be in connection with a group … As long as the act is being committed, it fits the definition. [If it’s] ideologically-motivated, there’s death and serious injury, and it creates a threat to a specified public group — those are the elements of a terrorism offence.”

Shaikh, who is now a professor of public safety at Seneca College, also said he was surprised by the charges because previously prosecutors would often only pursue murder charges because they carry the most severe penalty.

“I’d like to think the RCMP does have the information for them to see a reasonable prospect of conviction,” he said.

“The RCMP bringing this under a terrorism investigation means that very specific resources are dedicated to this investigation, [with] more technical analysis skills. And more importantly, the legal aspect of it being a terrorism prosecution — this will, of course, be an aggravating factor when it comes to not only sentencing, other phases of the trial.”

Veltman’s next court date is on June 21.

During a brief virtual courtroom appearance last week, the 20-year-old suspect indicated he had only spoken to a local law firm on the phone.

A funeral for the family was held Saturday at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario in London.