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Court hears Abdou Bannari was prone to ‘passionate hyperbole’

A geography professor at the University of Ottawa was acquitted Aug. 21 of threatening to kill the head of his department during “venting sessions” with colleagues in the summer of 2012.

Court heard that Abdou Bannari made references to former Concordia University professor and mass murderer Valery Fabrikant while speaking to colleagues about his difficult relationship with Marc Brosseau, the director of the geography department at the time of the incident.

Bannari was also acquitted of threatening to destroy university property with explosives when he told two members of human resources that he was an Arab man armed with dynamite that would be set off if his mobile phone rang, then opened his jacket to reveal no such thing.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Justice Gilles Renaud ruled that “the comments, even taken at face value, were not meant to intimidate.” Court also heard that Bannari was prone to “passionate hyperbole.”

Brosseau testified that Bannari was never violent, but made troubling comments at a faculty lunch at a Royal Oak restaurant in the summer of 2012.

According to Brosseau, a professor confided to him that Bannari felt “persecuted” and had mentioned Fabrikant, a former engineering professor who killed four colleagues during a shooting spree at Concordia University in 1992. Brosseau took the threat seriously after a second professor and friend of Bannari expressed concern.

“If his friend is worried about it, I have reason to fear,” Brosseau said in court.

Renaud acknowledged that Brosseau “suffered significant emotional distress” but made it clear that Bannari did not break any criminal law.

“The comments are, of course, inappropriate—and that’s the most polite words I can find—but they do not display a present intent to intimidate,” Renaud said.

Bannari’s lawyer James Foord argued that his client’s alleged comments were “offensive” but not criminal. After the ruling, Foord said he and his client were “pleased” and “relieved” with the decision.

“He wants to move on with his life,” said Foord.

Bannari was banned from campus when the charges were laid nearly a year ago and has since been on leave from the university. U of O spokesperson Caroline Milliard said it’s too early to comment on Bannari’s future with the university.

“The university will assess the verdict and its impact before making any comments,” she said.