Concordia Bomb Threat Trial Day 2: Defence Alleges Police Had “Double Standard”
Suspect Looks Back on “Torturous” Interrogation in Testimony
Hisham Saadi sat at the front of the courtroom on Tuesday, wearing a light green hoodie over a blue button-down shirt. The man charged in connection with the bomb threat hoax at Concordia last March looked increasingly uncomfortable as the remainder of his interrogation tape played.
Quebec Court Justice Mélanie Hébert has not yet determined whether the tape is admissible as evidence. Defense lawyer Caroline Braun claims the confession was not voluntary, since Saadi was in an oppressive atmosphere.
Braun said Saadi wasn’t in a proper state of mind to answer questions. She said that Montreal police denied him clothes, did not provide him with food and water, and argued they should’ve waited until morning to interrogate him since it was past midnight. The interrogation took more than three hours.
Prosecutor François Allard claims Saadi’s confession was completely voluntary and that police officer, Frédéric Gagné didn’t create an oppressive climate. He said Gagné didn’t use any tricks to pry a confession, and that Saadi was promptly given coveralls instead of being left in his boxers.
Allard also said that it was not up to Gagné to offer him food or water if he did not express his hunger or thirst. The prosecutor added that, apart from a bit of fatigue, there was no proof of cognitive impairment.
Braun suggested that the police treated the accused with a double standard.
“If this were a woman, would they have treated her the same way?” she said. “They never would’ve left her in nothing but an open coverall with her belly and small underwear hanging out.”
Saadi is charged with mischief, uttering threats, and inciting fear of a terrorist-related attack.
Looking Back to March 1
In the tape, Saadi continued to describe where he was on March 1, 2017. After studying at Tim Hortons and the Concordia library in the morning, Saadi said he went for a quick bite at Dagwoods.
When he got home, he spent the rest of his day looking for news articles of the bomb threat, curious about what had happened.
Whenever the officer told Saadi that the letter and email addresses were found in his laptop, Saadi stressed that he didn’t know how they got there and claims someone else must have put them there.
Saadi repeated several times that his lawyer told him to remain silent but that he was being completely cooperative as he had nothing to hide. He also repeated that he was doing his best to help the officer do his job.
At one point, Gagné suggested that perhaps Saadi sent the letter because he wasn’t as prepared for his exam as he let on. Saadi shut down the accusation, saying that if that were the case, it would’ve been easier to feign sickness and go to the clinic, that it wasn’t worth scaring so many people over the risk of something as “banal” as a failed exam.
“I think you’ve fixed on a puzzle and I don’t have the missing piece,” Saadi said. “I would like to use my right to silence from now on.”
Saadi Takes the Stand
When he testified in court Tuesday, he expressed horror at watching the interrogation tape.
“For me, it’s like a dream,” Saadi told the court.
“I felt humiliated and enraged,” he added, describing how he felt when he saw himself in the video with torn, undersized coveralls.
Throughout the interrogation, he was afraid his genitals would show, and his entire chest and stomach were left bare.
He explained that when he heard himself telling Gagné that he ate at Dagwoods that day, he couldn’t understand why he had said that. He claims that he’s never eaten Dagwoods in his life, and hearing him say that to the officer stood out as strange to him.
He said that the only thing he had eaten all day that day, was an apple turnover from Tim Hortons in the morning.
Saadi said it feels as though it was a completely different person in that video, as though he had “dissociated.”
Saadi added that he felt disturbed when the police officers arrested him and allegedly brought him outside in nothing but his boxer shorts, on a cold winter night.
He said he asked for clothes when he got into the squad car but was told that it was too dangerous. Because of the threat of explosives, his building had to be evacuated immediately.
He was told he would get his clothes at the station, though that happened nearly three hours later. Gagné dropped the bag of clothes on the floor next to Saadi and proceeded with the interrogation. Saadi did not immediately put them on.
Saadi told the court that he began taking medication to help with concentration in the week leading up to the exam, and was taking three times the prescribed dose as he was nervous of failing.
He explained that it was his last chance of staying in his doctorate program because he was on academic probation, and that he was having thoughts of suicide that morning.
Saadi said that he had been getting two to four hours of sleep every night leading up to that day. He said he was tired and just wanted the interrogation to end.
”For me, it was like torture,” he said.
He told the court that he felt like himself Tuesday, now taking new medications with adjusted doses.
The trial is expected to resume Thursday morning, where the judge will decide whether or not the interrogation tape is admissible.