A woman who attacked Canadian Tire employees with a knife and a golf club while proclaiming support for a terror group has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Rehab Dughmosh (“Dughmosh”) was found guilty of several terror charges by a jury after admitting to attacking workers at a Canadian Tire Store in east Toronto.
According to the agreed statement of facts, the only evidence presented at the trial, Dughmosh began considering an attack in Toronto almost a year after her return from a trip to join ISIL (a militant Islamic fundamentalist group active in Syria and Iraq). She admitted that she began to assemble store-bought and homemade weapons and created an ISIL banner using black spray paint.
On June 3, 2017, Dughmosh packed several bags with weapons, including a hammer, 31 metal barbecue skewers, 76 straws with screws glued to the tip, scissors, and a child’s shovel converted to claws. She also had an archery bow and a 20-centimetre butcher knife. As she left her apartment, her estranged husband took away the bags of weapons, however, he did not know she still had concealed an archery bow and a butcher knife.
Dughmosh proceeded to Canadian Tire and began collecting tools in a shopping basket. After 5 p.m., she took an ISIL banner from under her robe, tied an ISIL bandana around her head, and took out the archery bow. She then obtained a golf club and began swinging the club at three employees while chanting, “This is for ISIS”. The employees were able to take the club from her hands. She then proceeded to obtain her butcher knife, which the employees were also able to seize after wrestling her to the ground. Shortly thereafter local police and RCMP arrived at the scene.
Dughmosh admitted that she pledged allegiance to ISIL after reading about the terror group and watching videos online. She also admitted that she wanted to hurt people, but not kill them. She confessed that the attack was designed as payback for the public’s implicit agreement with governments killing Muslims.
Following the attack, Dughmosh’s home was searched and bags of weapons were found along with a cellphone that contained propaganda and a handwritten will where Dughmosh asked to be granted martyrdom.
Dughmosh was initially facing 21 charges. These charges were reduced to four, including two counts of assault with a weapon and one of carrying a weapon. She was also charged with leaving Canada for the purpose of committing a criminal offence in connection with an attempted trip to Syria in April 2016.
Dughmosh, who represented herself, did not enter a guilty plea on the charges. A not-guilty plea was entered on her behalf. She also did not present a defence and refused to make a closing statement to the jury.
The only evidence that was presented in court was an agreed statement of facts. This is very unusual in a jury trial.
Jason Wakely, federal Crown prosecutor, stated after the verdict,
Ms. Dughmosh was prepared to admit the facts that the Crown was alleging against her but for her own reasons she was not willing to formally enter a guilty plea, to formally elect to be tried by judge alone, she exercised her right to have this matter decided by a jury.
COURT-ORDERED PSYCHIATRIC ASSESSMENT
The Court ordered a psychiatric assessment last year to determine whether Dughmosh was eligible to use the “not-criminally-responsible” defence.
Dr. Sumeeta Chatterjee concluded that Dughmosh suffers from a major mental illness, most likely schizophrenia. He found that she was suffering from “actively psychotic” symptoms and “paranoid and persecutory delusions” at the time of the attack. The report suggested that her mental health began deteriorating in 2014, which may be associated with her adopting the terrorist group’s ideology during this time period.
Dr. Chatterjee concluded that although Dughmosh was suffering “intense psychotic symptoms” at the time of the attack, she was well aware that her actions could cause harm and were legally wrong.
In this case, the Crown prosecutor was seeking a sentence of eight years, reduced from 12 years, due to the well documented mental health issues suffered by Dughmosh.
Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell, in making her ruling, acknowledged that terrorists must be condemned and punished and that it was clear that Dughmosh’s offences were serious and that she prepared, planned, and intended to attack and cause harm.
Justice Forestell also recognized that Dughmosh’s mental illness played a role and was a mitigating factor. She found that Dughmosh’s mental illness made her vulnerable to extremist beliefs.
Justice Forestell sentenced Dughmosh to seven years in prison and stated that this particular sentence was significantly less than one that would have been imposed on an offender who did not have a mental illness and who did not show progress with treatment.
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