Canadian accused of running over Pakistani family pleads not guilty
September 6, 2023 10:20 AM
A Canadian man accused of slamming his pick-up truck into a Muslim family of Pakistani origin, killing four people in an alleged terrorist attack, pleaded not guilty to murder on Tuesday.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20 at the time of his arrest, appeared in court in Windsor, southern Ontario province, during the opening of the jury selection.
"(He pleaded) not guilty to five counts, and we chose the jury," his lawyer, Christopher Hicks, told AFP.
Veltman was charged with four counts of murder, which prosecutors say were premeditated, as well as one count of attempted murder over a June 2021 incident. He faces up to life in prison.
Three generations of the Afzaal family were out on a Sunday evening stroll in London, Ontario when a Dodge Ram truck "mounted the curb and struck" them, according to police.
The parents, their 15-year-old daughter and her grandmother were killed. A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
London police allege that Veltman deliberately ran over the family in "a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate."
At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a "terrorist attack."
"The unthinkable violence that the family faced should be a marker for the entire country," said Aasiyah Khan, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
"We look forward to seeing how our court system will send a message that all Canadians should be protected from terrorism, no matter the ethnicity or ideology of the attacker."
The trial will likely last three months, Veltman's lawyer said.
The London killings followed a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017, which left six dead. The perpetrator of that shooting was not charged with terrorism.