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Canadian sentenced to life in prison for ‘terrorist’ murders of Muslim family

Friends of late Yumnah Afzaal hold placards as they gather prior to a vigil her and her family in London, Ontario, Canada, on June 8, 2021
Friends of late Yumnah Afzaal hold placards as they gather prior to a vigil her and her family in London, Ontario, Canada, on June 8, 2021 - Copyright AFP Nicole OSBORNE
Friends of late Yumnah Afzaal hold placards as they gather prior to a vigil her and her family in London, Ontario, Canada, on June 8, 2021 - Copyright AFP Nicole OSBORNE
Michel COMTE

A white supremacist committed terrorism when he ran down a Muslim family out for an evening stroll, a Canadian judge said Thursday as she sentenced him to life in prison for the murders.

The ruling is the first in Canada to make a link between white supremacy and terrorism in a murder case.

Nathaniel Veltman, 23, was convicted in November of four counts of first degree or premeditated murder, and one count of attempted murder in the killing of three generations of the Afzaal family that also left a young boy orphaned.

He acknowledged striking the family with his pickup truck in June 2021 in London, Ontario.

The prosecution argued at trial that he sought to intimidate and terrorize Muslims, while the defense said he’d suffered a mental decline — which did not, however, meet the requirements for an insanity plea.

His lawyers also said he was in “a state of extreme confusion” after consuming hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms that weekend.

Judge Renee Pomerance, of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, said Veltman “had planned a murderous rampage for months and took steps to ensure that he would kill as many Muslims in this brutal manner as he could.”

Recalling Veltman’s statements to police, she said: “He wanted to intimidate the Muslim community. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of other mass killers, and he wanted to inspire others to commit murderous acts.”

“I find that the offender’s actions constitute terrorist activity,” she concluded.

Outside the courthouse, extended members of the Afzaal family expressed their grief, describing “a hollowness” and “scars.”

“The verdict will not bring back what was stolen. It will not mend the fractured pieces of our lives, our identity and our security,” said relative Tabina Bukhari.

But, she added, “the terrorism designation acknowledges the hate that fueled this fire, the ugliness that took the lives of Salman, Madiha and Yumnah.”

Defense lawyer Christopher Hicks, meanwhile, told reporters he is considering appealing both the conviction and sentence.

The jury in the almost 10-week trial heard Veltman had penned a “terrorist manifesto,” found on his computer, in which he espoused white nationalism and described his hate for Muslims.

The judge noted that he wore “combat gear” including a helmet and bulletproof vest during the attack.

Veltman passed the Afzaal family on a London street on that warm Sunday evening, turned his newly purchased truck with a heavy grill guard around, jumped the curb and slammed into them.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her grandmother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious injuries.

The slaying was the deadliest anti-Muslim attack in Canada since a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017 that left six dead. The perpetrator of that shooting was not accused of terrorism.

AFP
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