The accused in the slayings of six men at a Quebec City mosque last January will bypass his preliminary hearing and go straight to trial, the Crown announced on Monday.
Prosecutors filed a direct indictment against Alexandre Bissonnette during a brief hearing before Quebec court Judge Jean-Louis Lemay.
Crown prosecutor Thomas Jacques also announced another charge — one more count of attempted murder with a restricted weapon.
The new charge involves 35 people, including four children, who were in close proximity when the alleged attack occurred, Jacques explained.
But the indictment won’t include any terrorism charges, Jacques added.
Boufeldja Benabdallah, vice-president of the Islamic Cultural Centre, lamented the lack of terror-related charges.
“This terrorist act must be recognized and condemned, so that it serves as a strong lesson for Quebec society, Canadian society and … globally,” Benabdallah said.
Jacques said the charges reflect what the Crown had to work with.
“All the evidence gathered by the various police forces involved in this large scale investigation has been rigorously analyzed and the charges laid are the result and the evidence gathered, the available evidence and the current laws in Canada,” Jacques said.
Bissonnette, 27, now faces six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder using a restricted firearm.
Six people, aged between 39 and 60, were killed when a gunman stormed the mosque and opened fire on men who were attending prayer.
Jacques told reporters that the evidence disclosure process is also now complete, allowing the Crown to go the direct-to-trial route.
“The preferred indictment has been filed today — the consequence is that there will be no preliminary inquiry in this file and at the next date Dec. 11, the Crown will be ready to fix the trial date in front of a judge and a jury,” Jacques said.
The Crown added many factors were considered before going the preferred indictment route, including speeding up the trial date.
“It’s not the only purpose of a direct indictment,” Jacques said. “It’s one of the many factors that has been considered.”
Among those in the courtroom on Monday were five of the six widows of the victims, attending for the first time.
Often in tears, the women left the courthouse without speaking to reporters as did Said El-Amari, who was seriously wounded during the January attack.
Benabdallah spoke on their behalf, saying the situation is extremely difficult for the women, noting their “pain is not gone yet.”
“They still wait for their husbands every morning and they aren’t there,” Benabdallah said.
He said he was pleased a charge was added to reflect the 35 others present inside the mosque who were tremendously affected.
“They were physically, morally and psychologically wounded, and it’s justice that will play a fundamental role in resolving these wounds,” he said.
© 2017 The Canadian Press