A Canadian man is guilty of killing a Muslim family in Ontario
A Canadian man has been found guilty of murder in the 2021 killing of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, after an eleven-week trial.
But the jury did not determine whether Nathaniel Feltman, 22, was motivated by terrorism when he killed four Afzal family members.
Feltman ran over the family with his truck while they were walking together.
The case was the first time Canada’s terrorism laws were discussed before a jury in a first-degree murder trial.
Jury deliberations are secret under Canadian law, and jurors did not have to decide whether they believed the killer was terrorist-motivated.
The 12-person jury returned the verdict after less than six hours of deliberations.
Salman Afzal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44, were killed in the attack – along with their daughter Yumna Afzal, 15, and Mr Afzal’s mother, Talat Afzal, 74.
The couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously injured but survived.
The guilty verdict was delivered to a packed courtroom at Windsor Supreme Court on Thursday.
Someone distributed tissues to those who entered the court, many of whom were members of the Islamic community in London and Ontario and friends of the Afzal family.
Reporters inside the room said that onlookers were visibly emotional when they heard the guilty verdicts read.
Feltman, who was reportedly inside the courtroom dressed all in black, did not respond.
His lawyer, Christopher Hicks, said his client was shocked by the ruling.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, relatives of Afzal’s family said that although the ruling did not bring back their families, it did give them some solace.
They added that the trial served as a reminder that work is still needed to address hate in all its forms in Canada.
“This was not just a crime against the Muslim community, but an attack on the safety and security of all Canadians,” Tabinda Bukhari said on behalf of the family.
The National Council of Muslims said it was “satisfied that justice was achieved.”
Omar Khamisa, head of the National Council for Immigrants, said, “The attack that occurred more than two years ago changed the relationship of Canadian Muslims with their country.” “For the first time for many of us, we felt unsafe and were targeted for simply walking down the street.”
During the trial, prosecutors sought to argue that Feltman was motivated by hatred and white nationalist ideologies when he jumped his truck and struck Afzal’s family, Pakistani-Canadian Muslims, on June 6, 2021.
Both the defense and prosecutors agree that Feltman was behind the wheel that day, but he has pleaded not guilty, arguing that he suffers from mental illness.
In his closing arguments, Crown attorney Frazer Ball said Feltman intended to send a “clear message” through his actions and make “all Muslims fearful for their safety.”
The jury heard evidence of a document left by Feltman and found by police shortly after his arrest, which explains his hatred of Muslims.
They also heard that he began obsessively consuming far-right and anti-Muslim content online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Feltman, who defended himself during the trial, said he was scarred by a strict Christian upbringing and suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He also said he became disconnected from reality after eating magic mushrooms in the days before the family’s downfall.
He admitted that the idea of running over Muslims occurred to him twice after taking the medicine, but he resisted. Then, while out to eat, he said he saw the family and couldn’t stop the “craving.”
Judge Rene Pomerance thanked jurors for their verdict, saying it had been “a long trial and a difficult trial.”
Feltman will be sentenced at a later date. Under Canadian law, the penalty for first-degree murder is life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 25 years.
But Judge Pomerance may consider other factors during sentencing, including whether the murders were an act of terrorism.