Jury cautioned about racism in trial of Syrian refugee accused of killing 13-year-old Marrisa Shen

The presiding justice warned jurors not to let their unconscious biases influence their decision making in the case.

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After nearly six years, and at least six pre-trial delays, the murder trial for a Syrian refugee accused of killing 13-year-old Marrisa Shen finally began on Wednesday.

Shen, from Burnaby, British Columbia and who was described as a bright and creative young girl, was reported missing by her parents on July 18, 2017. The following day, her body was found in a wooded area of Burnaby’s Central Park leaving many in the community devastated.

Then, 14 months later, Ibrahim Ali, a Syrian refugee who had arrived in Canada and was welcomed with open arms by the Trudeau government, was arrested and charged with the first degree murder of Shen.

“I did not kill Marrisa Shen” Ali, stated adamantly in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Ali’s words were spoken through a translator that sat by his side the entire hearing. The translator communicated in Kurdish everything that was said in court to Ali. He also communicated the few but repetitive words that Ali had to say in Kurdish to the court.

“I repeat, I did not kill Marrisa Shen” Ali stated after Justice L. Bernard, who is presiding over the matter, asked Ali a second time how he would like to plead.

The justice asked Ali a third and final time how he would like to plead. When the response was the same as Ali’s previous replies, the justice said he'd take his answer as “not guilty” unless Ali wished to state otherwise.

The justice then proceeded to caution the jury about not being racist or sexist when coming to its decision.

“Our biases about personal characteristics such as race or gender, whether we realize it or not, can affect how we believe or disbelieve things we see or are told or how we react to those things. You must make a conscious effort to resist and to help other jurors resist jumping to conclusions based for example or race, ethnicity religion or gender,” said the justice.

Justice Bernard reiterated to the jurors that they resist making conclusions about guilt based on things like Ali's race and gender, and said not to judge the accused for being Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.

After Ali was charged for killing Shen, many members of the public raised concerns about Ali’s background — but not because of his race or religion. Instead, many wanted to know whether or not the influx of refugees that entered the country under the Trudeau government were being properly vetted.

In 2015, the Trudeau government promised Canadians that no single, military-aged men would be accepted in the fast-tracked Syrian refugee plan.

Yet here was Ali, who was single, had no wife and kids and managed to settle into Canada a few months before being charged with killing Marrisa Shen.

Watch the full video report above to learn more details about what occurred in court, including analysis from political commentator Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, who was assaulted shortly after Ali’s arrest for raising concerns about the vetting of Syrian refugees entering Canada.

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  • By Raheel Raza

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