The seventh day of Ezra Levant’s political trial was supposed to wrap up the proceedings and wrap up a few issues that needed clarification. As Madam Justice Matheson stated the day before, most of the time had to be allocated to clarifying questions asked by her and the lawyers of both sides.
As a result of his bizarre defense strategy, which he followed while answering the clarifying questions, Khurrum Awan managed to dig himself even deeper into difficult to explain contradictions. Looking and listening to him, I wondered whether I was in a Canadian courtroom or was transported into an episode of Rod Serling’s show, where almost everybody tries to defy logic.
I will go into more details in a minute, but let me first say again a word about that day’s coverage by the Canadian “conservative” press. The only journalist of national prominence writing regularly about the trial – Christie Blatchford – wrote another article.
Obviously, she didn’t find anything worthwhile to write about Day 7, so she went back to the verbal exchange Shiller and Levant had about the late Jennifer Lynch of CHRC. Ms. Blatchford says that Ms. Lynch’s controversial entrapment-style methods were abhorred by Ezra, as pointed out by Mr. Shiller:
“When she accosted me on Parliament Hill back in May, I didn’t recognize her, she is much more haggard and old than her ancient publicity picture. In other words, she surprised me. I think I shook her hand, because I had no idea who that old woman was who approached me. I dearly wish I had known who she was, for I would never have shaken the hand that shook the hands of so many Nazis…”
The interesting thing is that this part of the post was so gratuitously cruel; he had already, earlier in it, nicely dissected Ms. Lynch for her weak defence of her hate-speech-seeking staff.”
Then Ms. Blatchford reveals her sensitive reaction to that post, because she has been treated in the same way due to her appearance. Being a target, she has adopted a different attitude:
“Maybe that’s why I’m sensitive to the naked meanness of it, though it’s not the only reason. The longer I spend in this business, the more I try to adopt the physician’s motto of do no harm, or do as little harm as possible, as my own credo. I fail, of course, because unlike Mr. Levant, who says he writes “a million words a year” and makes only a handful of mistakes, I make a great many, of fact and judgment.”
Christie is damn right that she makes a great many mistakes and doing no harm to Ms. Lynch is one of them. Jennifer Lynch was one of the most disgusting, ghastly and revolting “public servants” in Canada. If it weren’t for people like Levant, and Lynch had her way, Blatchford sooner or later would’ve gotten the short end of the stick of the CHRC censorship policy.
While she complains about the “naked meanness” of the defendant, she makes another mistake earlier in the same article. Discussing a particular point of Mr. Awan’s testimony, Ms. Blatchford notes:
“To Mr. Levant, who is being sued for libel by Mr. Awan, this was the moment when he knew he had the then-law student by the short and curlies.”
At the trial Brian Shiller said a few times that journalists like Ezra Levant should check and verify their statements. Maybe Ms. Blatchford’s compassionate side could follow that advice, instead of choosing the idiom “by the short and curlies.”
The problem is that Mr. Awan is bald (that’s a verified statement of fact). He might be naturally bald or maybe he shaves his head, which makes him a false member of the “bald community,” as Larry David would put it. To keep in line with Mr. Shiller’s directive, I promise to ask Mr. Awan about the reason of his baldness to turn the previous sentence from a fair comment into a statement of fact.
Whatever the reason, I think Mr. Shiller would agree that saying how Ezra holds a bald man “by the curlies” is a cruel joke. That’s in case she means his missing head hair; if she refers to the x-rated version of the idiom, I have no comment. If Ms. Blatchford kept up with the politically correct absurdity of the trial, she could’ve chosen the idiom more carefully.
Unfortunately, after spending a week in court listening to absurd interpretations of words with the purpose to harm Ezra Levant, it is hard to avoid scrutinizing the words of the people who are against him.
The fight over words and their meanings was at the heart of the last session of the court. Ezra Levant took the stand again to respond to his lawyer’s questions.
McKinnon introduced a few documents supporting the allegation that Awan is a serial complainer – a letter to Jason Kenney; a press release with CIC as contact; a letter to the Globe and Mail of 2007 indicating the donation demand, etc. Levant confirmed that he was familiar with them.
Then he asked Levant whether he wrote the words that the three Muslim students are terrorists (asked by Brian Shiller the days before). The words appeared in quotation marks. Levant responded that those were not his words; he was reporting live and referred to another blogger’s writing, that’s why he put the phrase in quotation marks. He added that when Mr. Shiller asked him about that yesterday, he didn’t remember the exact words, but it sounded to him as if he wanted him to own the authorship of the phrase. So Levant wanted once again to make crystal clear that he didn’t write those words.
Another issue raised previously was takiyya. Mr. Shiller referred earlier to two different links to definitions explaining the term. Ezra’s explanation was that at the hearing he quickly googled the word to find a definition. At a later post, he referred to the definition of Daniel Pipes, which was more scholarly.
McKinnon: It was said that you have mentioned Khurrum Awan many times on your website. Did he mention you on his site?
Ezra Levant: Yes, I checked yesterday and found out that on his website my name was mentioned over 20 times.
McKinnon: You also mentioned that Mr. Awan introduced Mr. Elmasry at a Canadian Charger event in 2009. How do you know this fact?
Ezra Levant: A video from the event was posted on YouTube. Mr. Awan was the MC of the event. He spoke highly of Mr. Elmasry.
McKinnon: Do you ever make corrections in your blog, if somebody requests them?
Ezra Levant: I write extensively, about a million words per year, and also have a TV show. I check things, which is a good journalistic practice, but occasionally errors occur. I would correct them, if I am notified. For example, Mr. Warman contacted me once by e-mail about an important mistake, which I promptly corrected. I have very few correction requests on the newspaper and TV side. I have also made apologies a few times. However, when you discuss political issues, you may clash with people, who are political opponents. Such complaints do not necessarily require corrections of apologies. I mentioned Mr. Awan only in reference to the human rights case, then I wrote nothing, and again after his letter to the Toronto Star.
Judge: Clarification about the postings to the blog mentioned in the discovery examination – you said you used first your Blackbury, then computer. Is this the correct way you did it?
Ezra Levant: I cannot remember clearly, but I used both, sometimes it was easier to use the computer because of its keyboard.
After a break, Mr. Awan took the stand. Brian Shiller was about to start asking questions, when the judge warned him that she didn’t want to hear questions that the court has already been through.
Shiller: Why didn’t you contact Mr. Felton to correct the article in Canadian Arab News?
Awan: I was not aware of that newspaper at the time, I saw the quote in Levant’s book, and after that I saw it published on Mr. Felton’s website. At that point I wasn’t sure how to contact Mr. Felton.
Shiller: Mr. Levant testified that you worked for Canadian Charger, is that true?
Awan: False – I never worked for them. I was approached by two professors at Queen’s University, who were the driving force, and they told me they were starting an alternative progressive magazine, which they wanted to model to similar online magazines like Rabble.ca. They invited me to the editorial board, which I declined for a variety of reasons. Later they requested that I attend a pre-launch fundraiser event, where I was to talk about the alternative progressive media. I also had to introduce several speakers. Later I assisted two individuals to sue the Canadian Charger and Mr. Elmasry, and in 2009 I assisted another organization with their charges against the magazine.
(OK, let’s take a movie break. The Canadian Charger video is still online. In it you can see the enthusiastic Mr. Awan introducing Elmasry as CIC’s “founding father” – Awan in the video has nothing in common with the forgetful amnesiac we saw during the trial. The real attraction in it is Mohamed Elmasry – it is hilarious to watch how he tries to reinvent himself as a progressive online publisher. He is as convincing as an absurd Monty Python character. Yet he finds it necessary to call Awan a hero; express concern about global warming; make fun of Conrad Black and share his “vision” about the online media defeating the printed media. I wonder why he had to start the Maclean’s brouhaha, if he could so easily defeat the magazine online.)
It is hard to explain how after that cozy meeting Awan stabbed Elmasry in the back by helping his enemies sue him, but unfortunately I am not a specialist in Muslim ethics.
Then Mr. Shiller continued: Mr. Levant has made remarks about how you pay your legal costs. How do you cover them?
Awan: At the time when all started, I was about to settle in Saskatchewan, I had $70,000-$80,000 in student debt. My associate salary in Saskatchewan was significantly lower than elsewhere. The first two years, when my wife was a student, we were on a shoestring budget, but my wife worked and we were able to cover our legal expenses. In order to have those two incomes, we had to delay our plans to have a family.
Shiller raised again the question whether Awan was asked to help during the hearing in British Columbia. Naturally, he denied it. He was called to testify and didn’t know the exact time, so he couldn’t move around (the space was tight) and any movement could’ve caused disturbance.
Shiller: Mr. Levant said that the requested donation was mentioned twice – at the initial meeting at Maclean’s and at the press conference.
Awan: There was no donation mentioned at the press conference. It was held only to announce the request for a reasonable response and that was all. In response to a reporter’s question about donation, Mr. Joseph said that the donation was requested at the initial meeting.
Shiller: Do you accept Mr. Levant’s interpretation of your comment on Garth Turner’s site?
Awan: No. I have been active in the community for many years, even before CIC, and in all those years I have never held a view that any position of the Canadian government in support of Israel is inappropriate.
Then McKinnon started questioning Awan.
McKinnon: Would you explain why you didn’t contact Mr. Levant in 2009 to correct the article?
Awan: I don’t recall the exact dates. I didn’t have Google alerts about my name. The Google alerts were about the Maclean’s case.
McKinnon: You said you didn’t want to interfere with Mr. Felton about that error. Why didn’t you contact him to correct what in your opinion was such a glaring error, when you didn’t even say those words?
Awan: I already started the legal proceedings at the time and wasn’t comfortable contacting him.
McKinnon: You don’t sue Levant for Feltman’s words, but for other issues. So you say you didn’t want to interfere with a lawsuit by contacting Mr. Feltman about something you never said?
Awan: There were many, many things Mr. Levant said that I was suing him for.
McKinnon: Was that the same reason that you never contacted Mr. Levant to correct all those issues on his blog before suing?
Awan: The reason for that was that he was calling me different names, like “little Al Sharpton” and others. The second reason was that I knew about many people, who debated with Mr. Levant about the human rights commissions. He trashed them, published their allegations and attacked them further. That’s why I wasn’t interested in communicating with him.
McKinnon: So you didn’t contact him and preferred to sue?
Awan: After the Maclean’s magazine I wanted to go on with my work, but then Mr. Levant referenced me in Shakedown and other publications. Then came his reaction to my letter to the Toronto Star.
McKinnon: That wasn’t my question. I asked that you didn’t contact him to correct the statements in the blog, but chose to sue him instead, is that correct?
Awan: I sued him because Mr. Levant was an irrational commentator and there was no reason to contact him.
McKinnon: So the only reason you didn’t contact him was because he was irrational?
Awan: No, but I have seen him trash other people, like in his comments about the chief commissioners of HRC in British Columbia and Ontario. He was an unreasonable commentator, he called me “an anti-Semitic CIC bastard” and other names. I didn’t expect that he would respond fairly to my objections.
McKinnon: Would you agree that one option to correct somebody’s statement is to contact that person?
Awan: Yes, if that person is a fair and reasonable commentator.
McKinnon: So only if they are fair and reasonable you will contact them, if they are not, the only option is to sue them. Correct?
Awan: No, there were other options, like ignoring them, making conter-comments, sending letters to the editor and others.
McKinnon: But the option you chose was to sue?
Awan: I didn’t find the other options viable in this case. His blogs speak for themselves.
McKinnon: You said you were involved with the Canadian Charger. You mentioned you were approached by the professors with an offer to sit on the editorial board. They did so because you were close to Mr. Elmasry’s point of view to be expressed in the magazine. Correct?
Awan: Not at all. All three students were invited, because we already had experience, to provide checks and balances to the new publication. They were aware that I don’t agree with Mr. Elmasry on a variety of issues.
McKinnon: You would agree with me that people on the editorial boards shape the policies of a publication, right?
Awan: I haven’t been on the editorial board, but assume that’s how it works.
McKinnon: But didn’t they invite all of you, because your views align with the views of Mr. Elmasry?
Awan: No, they recognized us as Muslim activists with progressive views. I declined.
McKinnon: They must’ve explained to you why they invited you.
Awan: I don’t remember the specifics of the discussion. I also went into private practice and wasn’t interested.
McKinnon: I understand, but you seem to remember very well what was said at the testimony and the press conference in 2008, which was earlier.
Awan: There were transcripts from those events.
McKinnon: The Canadian Charger fundraiser – despite your refusal to join the editorial board, they invited you to introduce Mr. Elmasry.
Awan: No, they invited me to introduce several speakers and talk on the alternative progressive media.
McKinnon: And it was you out of anybody else in the entire world, who was chosen to introduce Mr. Elmasry.
Awan: I have no idea why they chose me.
McKinnon: I would suggest that you knew exactly why they chose you – you shared his views and were sympathetic to him and in a close relationship with him. Correct?
Awan: Absolutely not – I was invited because my experience with the Maclean’s complaint made the case that the alternative media are important. I wasn’t close to him – later I provided legal assistance to people who wanted to sue him and the Canadian Charger.
McKinnon: Was Mr. Elmasry aware of that?
Awan: I am not sure.
McKinnon: Are you the counsel on record in the legal cases against Elmasry and the magazine?
Awan: No, in the second case I was asked about the viability of legal action.
McKinnon: So you are not listed on any documents concerning the proceedings?
Awan: No, I am not. There was only a letter sent from the legal firm I worked for.
McKinnon: So it is safe to assume that Mr. Elmasry wasn’t aware of your participation.
Awan: I am not sure.
McKinnon: Both of those cases were filed around 2009?
After a break, the lawyers and the judge decided to schedule the presentation of the final arguments for April 7.
That was the end of it. I will update you in April with the contents of the arguments.
However, I think that there are certain lessons we can learn from this important trial that the mainstream media underestimated. I’ll cover them later this week. Stay tuned…
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