Montreal organizer Jaggi Singh pleads guilty to G20 charge

Apr 28, 2011

Montreal organizer Jaggi Singh pleads guilty to G20 charge

Montreal community organizer and activist Jaggi Singh pled guilty today in a Toronto court to charges of “counselling to commit mischief over $5000” stemming from a speech in Toronto when he called on protesters to tear down the controversial security perimetre established in the city for the G20 summit.

The plea means Singh could face up to 6 months in prison; the prosecution is calling for the maximum sentence. According to a press release annoucing the plea, though, over 276 letters or support calling on the judge to offer a lesser sentence were submitted to the court today.

Singh also says the plea deal allows him to end this legal battle "relatively speaking, on my own terms and timetable." He also states via the release that the plea will allow him  to "openly state that the fence deserved to come down, and that the G20 deserved to be confronted."

The terms of the plea also explicitly state that the outcome of his case cannot be used in other G20 related trials, that Singh will not be called to testify or be compelled to co-operate with the Crown prosecutors in any way. The plea also ensures that the plea deal is made public in it's entirety, and is availbale for viewing here (PDF).

Singh turned himself over to police officers in Toronto on July 6 following the G20 protests, which saw the largest ever mass arrests and detentions in Canada's history, with over 1,000 people stopped by police. Singh was being sought by police at the time on charges including conspiracy to commit mischief to property, assault police, and obstruct justice. All other charges, save the single charge he has pled guilty to, have now been dropped.

The fence in question - and the perimetre around it - were mired in controversy. Security costs for the event were budgeted at just under $1 billion, including the $5.5 million fence surrounding the dowtown area where the meetings were taking place. As the country, like others, faced an ongoing econmic crisis, and given that other cities had spent much less on security preparations in the past, many questioned why so much needed to be spent to lock-down Canada's largest city. There was also widespread confusion over what powers of arrest police had in the vicinity of the fence, oftern stopping and searching people at random and without cause, and threatengin arrest to any who did not comply. Only one person was ever charged, though, and his charges disappeared from the court computer system before he appeared in court.

Seventeen other people are still facing charges stemming from G20 arrests, many of them serious. Singh called on his supporters to continue to back them in their legal battles: "They are all deserving of everyone’s interest and active support, and I encourage all concerned about police and state repression to provide it, tangibly."

Sentencing arguments are set to end today, with a sentencing decision expected by June 21.