Terror suspect too close to Toronto Jews for comfort

TORONTO, Sept. 3 (JTA) — Jewish officials are dismissing as misleading a report that suspected international terrorist Mahmoud Jaballah first supported himself as a cleaner at the Bathurst Street Jewish Community Center when he landed in Toronto three years ago.

The Jewish officials say last week’s report in the Globe and Mail newspaper was misleading, but they acknowledge that Jaballah — arrested in mid-August on evidence of involvement with the Egyptian Islamic terrorist organization Al Jihad — worked for an independent cleaning company that held a contract to clean the BJC, a large Jewish recreational facility in north Toronto.

“He was part of a night crew of about six or seven cleaners that came in about two and a half years ago,” the director of the center, Sherry Kulman, said. “He was not an employee of ours.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s federal police force, tipped off communal officials about the Egyptian refugee’s connections to the Osama bin Laden-financed terrorist faction that is believed to be responsible for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.

Acting on the RCMP information, BJC management “immediately spoke with the cleaning company to ensure that Mr. Jaballah would not be on the list of cleaners sent to the BJC,” said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Ontario region of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Communal officials never believed any malicious plot was in the works when they learned that Jaballah was part of the cleaning staff.

“It appears to have been just a coincidence,” Farber said.

However, he acknowledged that the incident sparked a review of security precautions at all Jewish institutions in Toronto, for which the Canadian Jewish Congress takes primary responsibility.

“Changes have been put in place to ensure that this sort of thing won’t happen again,” he said, declining to provide further details for security reasons. “It was a lesson well learned.”

Jaballah, who was working as a teacher at an Islamic school at the time of his recent arrest, served 10 months in jail on suspicion of terrorist activities before a judge found his denials credible and ordered him released in 1999.

He was jailed again when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service recently presented new evidence against him to several Canadian Cabinet ministers, who signed a new certificate declaring Jaballah a threat to national security.

CSIS has linked Jaballah to an array of Al Jihad members in Canada and internationally, but details remain secret.

In conjunction with the opening of the federal case in Toronto, CSIS has released a 21-page summary of its evidence against Jaballah. His lawyer, Rocco Galati, has complained that it contains nothing new.

Meanwhile, Galati said, his client is being held in a small maximum-security cell and permitted visitors for only two hours a day.

“He’s very distraught,” Galati said. “He and his family can’t understand why this is happening.”

Jaballah is wanted on terrorism charges by the Egyptian government and could be deported to Egypt if the Canadian government’s case against him is upheld.

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