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Dancing doctor to face terror charge more than three years after arrest

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Terror suspect Khurram Syed Sher leaves the Ottawa Courthouse after being granted bail in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. More than three years after his arrest, Sher, who once auditioned for the Canadian Idol TV show, will face trial on a terrorism charge. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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Terror suspect Khurram Syed Sher leaves the Ottawa Courthouse after being granted bail in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. More than three years after his arrest, Sher, who once auditioned for the Canadian Idol TV show, will face trial on a terrorism charge. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA - More than three years after his arrest, a man who once auditioned for the Canadian Idol TV show will face trial on a terrorism charge.

Khurram Syed Sher, a doctor of pathology from London, Ont., is to be tried by judge alone in an Ottawa courtroom starting Monday.

Sher, 31, was charged along with two other men in August 2010 with conspiracy to facilitate terrorism.

The others cannot be named due to a recently imposed publication ban aimed at ensuring the jury in their trial, slated for April, is not prejudiced.

Following the sensational arrests, police said they seized terrorist literature, videos and manuals, along with dozens of electronic circuit boards allegedly designed to detonate homemade bombs remotely.

Three additional men, all believed to be living abroad, have been named as unindicted co-conspirators.

Police claimed the alleged plot stretched from Ottawa to Afghanistan, Dubai, Iran and Pakistan. A senior RCMP officer said at the time that an attack was still months away, but that the plotters were moving into a preparatory phase.

Authorities said they swooped in when they did to prevent the suspects from sending money to counterparts to buy weapons that would be used against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Four weeks have been set aside for Sher's trial.

The McGill University graduate, who has been free on bail, worked as an anatomical pathologist at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in St. Thomas, Ont., south of London.

He made international headlines shortly after his arrest when it emerged he had once sung and danced on the Canadian Idol program.

An undercover source working for Canada's main spy agency and sensitive intelligence from the United States and Britain helped build the case against the alleged conspirators, court documents indicate.

At least some of that information came from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the London Metropolitan Police in Britain, says an affidavit filed by the RCMP in the Federal Court of Canada.

The federal government applied under the Canada Evidence Act to maintain a cloak of secrecy over portions of the approximately 9,300 documents disclosed to defence counsel in the criminal cases.

The government argued the sections must remain blacked out to prevent disclosure of information that would be "injurious to national security, international relations or national defence."

It is unclear how much — if any — of the material will come out during the trials.

A heavily edited court transcript of a closed-door proceeding Dec. 6, 2012, about the federal request for redactions indicates the Canadian Security Intelligence Service relied on an undercover source during the terrorism investigation.

"In fact, in this particular case, the information about the CSIS human source is contained in a number of affidavits for search warrants and wiretaps and so on," Andre Seguin, a lawyer with the Justice Department's national security group, said at one point.

Seguin noted that although the information had been disclosed to defence counsel, it remained sealed and could not be seen by the public.

In an affidavit filed in the Federal Court proceeding, CSIS official Bradley Evans said the spy service supported the federal request to keep certain information secret, saying that, if disclosed, it "could lead to the identification of a human source."

In another affidavit, Capt. Maitland Barber, a senior intelligence official with the Canadian Forces, stressed the importance of safeguarding information provided by Canada's allies in the "Five Eyes" intelligence community — the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

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