Computer security expert Byron Sonne was granted finally bail after 330 days behind bars on May 16. He waited until Wednesday to be released, however, following the final bail hearing, when the crown attorney had the opportunity to contest the decision. Fortunately, the judge disagreed and he was free to go.
Sonne spent roughly 11 months in custody. The 38 year old was denied bail twice since his June 22, 2010 arrest, which took place just prior to the start of the G-20 Summit in Toronto.
Bail was set at $250,000, and Sonne is now free until he returns to court for trial in Nov. 2011.
Supporter Kate Milberry called Sonne’s bail conditions “undemocratic and apparently random.” Sonne has non-association conditions that prevent him from having contact with members of activist groups such as [email protected], Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance (SOAR), and the now-defunct Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN) (now resurrected as the Community Mobilization Network), whose membership included the over 3,500 people who belong to their list serve.
Sonne and his supporters claim he was never in touch with these groups prior to the G-20, though many activist members have taken up his cause post-G20 in a #freebyron campaign. This, of course, does not mean that Sonne himself is speaking to these individuals.
Sonne must live at his parents’ Brampton home and can only leave the residence if accompanied by either his father or mother, except to attend work, school, court or for medical emergencies. He is also barred from using computers or accessing the internet, except for employment purposes. These conditions are similar to what other G-20 defendants received.
On Laurel L. Russwurm’s blog Oh! Canada, she notes, “something that has disturbed me from the outset is that the denial of bail appears to be punitive. Is this a case of Canada’s Crown prosecution ensuring that an innocent man will pay the price of incarceration before trial since the trial is likely to exonerate him? In fact, our federal government has published statistics indicating an increase of the use if the remand process which could well indicate that the process is being deployed as punishment rather than waiting for a judicial finding of guilt, particularly when it is unlikely to happen at all.”
Sonne was originally charged with six offences relating to his actions just prior to the G-8 and G-20 Summits held in Ontario last June. The charges against him stem from his alleged willingness to publically share information he researched by listening to police radio scanners regarding G-20 security plans.
This research included posting “how-to” counter-surveillance guides and posting photos of the security fence and various surveillance cameras. These posts included critical editorial opinions such as a photo of a group of bicycle unit police officers with the caption, “Bacon Wheels.” He was also critical of the amount of taxpayers’ money was being wasted on G-20 “security.”
His supporters feel it was this behaviour, the tenacity that he approached the dissemination of G-20 information and his personal beliefs about the dangers of a Canadian security state that caused him to run afoul with the law.
“He did not hide anything because he knew what he was doing was not illegal,” said Madison Kelly, another supporter. “If the system was working they would have looked at him and said, ‘Ah, shit disturber,’ and ignored him. Not only did they not ignore him, they came down on him like a ton of bricks. The first thing he said to me in jail was, ‘I never thought it would go this far.'”
After his arrest in Forest Hill, Toronto, where he lived with his wife, Sonne was charged with possessing explosive substances, intimidating justice officials, mischief, attempted mischief and possessing dangerous weapons. With the exception of explosives charge, the other original charges were dropped earlier this year at pre-trial while the additional charge of counselling to commit mischief not committed was added.
All evidence from the courts up to this point is under publication ban.
Kelly, now a member of the Free Byron campaign, believes the federal government and members of the G-20 Investigative Unit wanted to make an example of Sonne. “He embarrassed the hell out of them,” she said. “They wanted to spend $1.2 billion and they didn’t want anybody to question it. And when someone not just questioned it but pointed out the faults in it, well, you have the story that Byron has now.”
Krystalline Kraus writes the Activist Communiqué blog for rabble.ca.