Conspiracy charges dropped against G20 protester

December 20, 2010

The alleged “ringleader” accused of organizing demonstrations during the G20 had her charges dropped Monday morning in court.

Jaroslava Avila, a 23-year-old University of Toronto political science student, who faced three charges of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, mischief and assault and obstruct police began crying after she left the courtroom, hugging her mother.

“I’m feeling mixed feelings right now because this entire process has been incredibly painful for me and for the rest of the people going through this process,” Avila said outside of Finch Ave. W. court. “Hopefully, all their charges will be dropped. We’re all social organizers in this movement and nothing justifies what they did to us over these past six months.”

Avila is one of the 19 people who faced conspiracy charges from the G20 weekend in June. She was arrested by 10 police officers on Sept. 29 after a healthcare protest on the U of T campus.

She has been under strict conditions of house arrest, including not having access to wireless devices, and a not participating in public demonstrations.

“The gag is off,” she said. “What the police and government have done to us has no name. I couldn’t even pick up groceries for my parents and I’m lucky compared to the co-accused because a lot of them can’t even go out of the house without their surety. The only conspirators I see are the police and the government.”

Crown attorney Jason Miller said the decision was made last week to drop the charges because “based on the evidence, there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it continues to monitor the outstanding charges.

“I think it’s very unusual for this quantity of charges to be withdrawn and when that happens it makes us wonder why they were laid in the first place,” said Graeme Norton, director of the CCLA’s Public Safety Project.

One of the co-accused, Julian Ichim, had charges of counselling to commit mischief dropped in November. Roughly 1,105 people were arrested during the G20 and 300 charges were laid. There are still around 97 charges outstanding, Norton said.

Paul Rosenthal, the lawyer of Montreal-based activist Jaggi Singh, another of the co-accused, said there is a concern about a lack of disclosure in these cases.

“The Crown says with justification, they have a lot of work to do in preparing disclosure, but it’s now been six months since the event and we should have the substantial disclosure by now,” he said. “Lack of disclosure means we don’t know the full case against the accused and that inhibits our preparation for trial.”

Justice Paul French ordered the 18 people still facing charges back to court on Jan. 31 at 9 a.m. for preliminary inquiries.

Avila said she intends on finishing her studies and attend some private school and continue with her political work with indigenous people of southern Chile.

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