A Canadian man who allegedly killed a Muslim family from Pakistan when he drove his car into the four victims in London, Ontario, has pleaded not guilty, BBC reported on Wednesday.
The same family’s three generations were out for a stroll in 2021 when 22-year-old Nathaniel Veltman allegedly ran them over with the intention of deliberately assaulting the family due to their religious views.
Veltman has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder; the jury selection procedure for the trial has started.
Veltman maintained his silence in court throughout his trial, according to CBC News.
Veltman’s charges include terrorism counts which means that the prosecution must show that the defendant’s conduct was motivated by a political, religious, or ideological cause in addition to being deliberate and determined.
On June 6 2021, Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44; their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15; and Afzaal’s mother Talat Afzaal, 74, were out for a walk when they met with the tragedy.
Three generations of the Afzaal family were killed in the incident, leaving just one survivor, the couple’s then-nine-year-old son who was seriously hurt but survived.
According to a relative of the family, Madiha and Salman had come to Canada from Pakistan for a better future.
Police arrested Veltman near London’s oldest mosque, where the Afzaal family are devoted members, soon after the attack. The police said that he was found wearing body armour and a helmet.
The attack in Canada caused widespread grief and fear in Canada, while London’s Muslim community mourned the loss of a family.
Abd Alfatah Twakkal, chair of the London Council of Imams, spoke outside the court, saying: “Tomorrow, September the 6th, 2023, marks exactly 27 months since a horrific tragedy struck the Muslim community in London.
“Our hope is that we can continue to heal as a community and we’ll achieve some level of closure at the conclusion of this trial.”
Meanwhile, the Superior Court trial is expected to last about three months.