He was an average teenager who hung out at Tim Hortons and worked at Canadian Tire.
But in the wee hours of April 5, Sleiman Elmerhebi left a house party, took six canisters of kerosene and launched them through the windows of a Montreal Jewish school, igniting an inferno that engulfed the library and fanned flames of fear on the eve of Passover.
Elmerhebi left an alarming political tract taped to the door of the United Talmud Torahs school in St. Laurent, claiming the attack was to avenge Israel’s assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Hamas.
But a psychiatrist testified yesterday that Elmerhebi committed the internationally deplored hate crime in a bid to appear cool….
The defence is attempting to portray Elmerhebi as a normal kid who made a grave mistake.
But even though a charge of conspiracy that had been under consideration was withdrawn by the Crown yesterday, Jewish leaders were skeptical that this was the impulsive gesture of an immature young man acting independently.
“I definitely do not believe this person acted alone,” said Jeffrey Boro, president of the Quebec branch of the Canadian Jewish Congress. “This was an act that was thought out, that was premeditated, that he had time to reflect on.
“I can’t see that it was a childish prank,” Boro said.
Those suspicions were heightened yesterday when Elmerhebi took the stand.
Quebec Court Judge Jean Sirois questioned him – essentially attempting to find out why he did what he did.
But the long, lanky teen had difficulty explaining his actions, as well as what motivated him to write a tract signed “Sheik Ahmed Yassin Brigades.”
“It was a weakness on my part, I don’t really have words to describe it,” Elmerhebi said. “I think it’s just something that came into my head because at that point I was watching a lot of TV.”…
Elmerhebi said he is neither politically motivated nor religious, and professes to be somewhat ignorant of events in the Middle East, Surkis pointed out.
Yet the tract left at the school is “a shocking letter,” Surkis said.
It contained this chilling message: “Here are the consequences of the crimes of your occupation. Here is the comeuppance of your assassins. … Today our target was an empty place. Our goal was to sound the alarm without causing death, but this is only the beginning. … Next time, we’ll strike harder.”