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Sikh- Canadian-teen charged with Kirpan attack, pleads not guilty
( Feb 12 2009 )
Observer News Service Ottawa A 13-year-old Sikh- Canadian boy, accused of assaulting two classmates with Kirpan last year, appeared at a Montreal court to plead his innocence. The issue of whether the Gatra ( Small Kirpan ) should be considered a weapon took centrestage at the hearing this week. Defence lawyer Julius Grey argued that the last September that incident was a fabrication by two teenagers jealous of a friendship the Sikh boy had with another teen they regarded as their only school friend. When they were not able to regain his friendship, they made up the story, he said, according to the Canadian Press. The prosecutors, however, called it a clear-cut case of assault with a Kirpan and a hairpin. "The only question that needs to be answered is whether the Crown proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt, "prosecutor Sylvie Lemieux said. The boy testified that the only time he unwrapped the kirpan on his own was in front of police and school officials when they questioned him about the alleged incident. "She (a police officer) told me to unwrap my kirpan and I told her I was not allowed and she said I had no choice,"the"soft-spoken teen"told the youth court, the report said. The charges were laid after the plaintiffs alleged the accused took out a hairpin and a Kirpan. The boy has pleaded not guilty and has denied using either object as a weapon. The boy nearly fainted during his testimony, forcing a brief break, reports said. However, Sikh boy's lawyer argued that persistent anti-Kirpan sentiment in Quebec combined with parental prejudice are at the root of criminal charges brought against a Sikh boy. The trial of the 13-year old boy, who is charged with brandishing a short, permanently sheathed, ceremonial dagger during a school scuffle in September, ended with the boy's soft-spoken testimony and heated arguments between lawyers. Two schoolmates accused the Sikh boy of poking them with the dagger and a hair pin during a brief disagreement that quickly rose from the street to the principal's office to the courts. The incident took place near the Cavalier-de-LaSalle high school in the Marguerite Bourgeoys school division - the same school board that fought in court against the right of a Sikh student to wear the kirpan. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of Sikhs to wear the kirpan to school. The case was among the examples of "reasonable accommodation" that has inflamed debate in Quebec in recent years. The teenager accused of three counts of assault described how the brothers followed him and two friends over several days from the start of the school year. On Sept. 11, the brothers, who wanted to befriend one of the Sikh boy's companions, were told to get lost. One of the Sikh boy's other friends admitted to pushing one of the brothers to the ground during the altercation. The frail Sikh boy, who fainted during his testimony yesterday, and his friends say that was the extent of the violence and that the kirpan was never taken out from beneath his clothing. The brothers claim the accused unstrapped his dagger from beneath his clothing, unwrapped it from a cloth cover and poked one boy with it and then used a hair pin to poke the other. "These two boys, jealous of [the accused], decided to teach him a lesson. They had a certain prejudice they picked up at home, and they invented a story," Mr. Grey said. Prosecutor Sylvie Lemieux said the case is not about religion, prejudice or the right to carry a kirpan. She argued it would have been impossible for the brothers to invent such a detailed story involving the religiously symbolic kirpan. During the arguments Grey asked. ``Did you ever unwrap the kirpan?'' ``No. Never,'' the boy said. ``Did you ever show it to anyone?'' ``No,'' the boy said. The 13-year-old said he only mentioned he was wearing a Kirpan to a close friend. He asked the boy to keep it a secret. When Grey asked about the hairpin, the boy said it fell out of his pants about a week before the incident. The plaintiffs noticed the pin and asked him what it was. He explained that he uses it to tuck his hair underneath his turban when it falls out, a frequent hassle for him.
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