Judge clears lawyer of assault charge

A Toronto lawyer sued by the Aga Khan has been cleared of assault after an incident at a Markham, Ont. mosque.

Alnaz Jiwa tells Legal Feeds it was “a relief” when Ontario Court Justice William Gorewich found him not guilty of assault with a weapon on May 30, after 18 months with the case hanging over him.

“Unfortunately I could not respond and many people, in the profession as well as in the community believed the false news,” Jiwa says.

The complainant, Mansurali Kara, required stitches for a cut on his head after he was struck by a plate in a bag thrown by Jiwa following the Dec. 30, 2010 incident. But Gorewich found Kara was the aggressor, punching Jiwa first.

“I accept the explanation of Mr. Jiwa that he instinctively raised his hand, which was holding the plate of food and threw it at Mr. Kara who had, in effect, attacked him. Mr. Jiwa said it was self-defence, it was a reflex action, it was instinctive,” Gorewich said in his verbal reasons. “I accept Mr. Jiwa’s actions were instinctive and designed to ward off the advance by Mr. Kara.”

The fallout from Jiwa’s copyright dispute with the Aga Khan, which finally ended with the lawyer and a co-defendant ordered to stop selling copies of the spiritual leader’s speeches, was at the heart of the incident, according to Gorewich.

“I find on the evidence that Mr. Jiwa’s defence of this matter caused a number of people in that particular religious community to be offended, as the defence to the action was seen as an affront or challenge to the authority of the Imam. I find there was hostility directed to Mr. Jiwa by Mr. Kara on December the 30th, 2010 as a result of what was perceived to be a challenge by Mr. Jiwa to the authority of the spiritual leader,” the judge said.

Jiwa was at the mosque to offer his condolences to a bereaved friend. He was approached in the prayer room by Kara, who told him he should leave, says Gorewich’s decision.

After the verbal altercation in the prayer room, an agitated Kara was misleadingly warned by a friend that Jiwa was waiting for him outside the room. According to Gorewich, that put Kara “on guard for what he perceived to be an imminent, impending threat.”

When the pair encountered one another again, “I find that Mr. Kara, thinking Mr. Jiwa was going to strike him, moved towards Mr. Jiwa and struck him first. I find Mr. Kara’s hand was injured as he hit his hand on the pillar near where Mr. Jiwa was standing,” Gorewich wrote. “[Jiwa] did not initiate the verbal confrontations, he did not initiate the physical altercation with Mr. Kara, and he responded instantly to the advance of Mr. Kara in the fashion he described, instinctively and in self defence, and using sufficient force to repel the attack.”

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