Fighting for his composure, lawyer Rocco Galati said Thursday that he will drop all of his terrorism-related cases after a death threat that he said he believes came from an intelligence agency.
Mr. Galati is known as a tough-minded counsellor and he said he has put up with plenty of abuse for representing people many Canadians have no sympathy for. He has endured angry communications before and once found a strangled cat on his doorstep, but he almost broke down Thursday as he described his disillusionment upon receiving the threat.
“I'm not on the verge of tears for my safety. I'm on the verge of tears because it means we now live in Colombia. It means that the rule of law is meaningless. It means that lawyers cannot represent anyone even in what you profess to be a democracy here in Canada,” he said. “It comments on where we've arrived as a society.”
He issued a direct appeal to “whoever I've angered,” pleading that they take his statement Thursday “as my bowing out.”
The Toronto-based lawyer — who represents at least seven people in national security cases – said that he received a threatening message one day after he answered media questions with former terrorism suspect Abdurahman Khadr. He played it Thursday for reporters gathered at his office.
“Well, Mr. Galati. What's this I hear about you working with the terrorist now, helping to get that ... punk terrorist Khadr off. You a dead wop,” a voice said, in low and calm tones.
Mr. Galati said that lawyers in controversial practices become accustomed to angry messages from the public, but he said that this threat was different.
“You get to recognize when someone is trying to blow off steam and when someone is serious,” he said at his office, his own lawyer by his side. “This is serious, this is an institutional threat, this is not an individual.”
He was tightlipped when asked to explain his apparent certainty that the threat came from an official source. He would say only that he recognized the voice on the message from a previous case and said that, in that earlier instance, a person mentioned by the voice had subsequently disappeared.
Mr. Galati's own lawyer, Paul Slansky, said that neither the RCMP nor the Toronto police seem willing to take the threat seriously.