Neo-Nazi expert can't testify at hate trial

He's tainted by public comments, judge says

A NOTED expert on the neo-Nazi movement was disqualified by a judge from testifying at the trial of seven people charged with promoting hatred yesterday because he may he biased.

Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress's Ontario region, was to be the Crown's final witness in the case against demonstrators who picketed a Scarborough motel where Roma refugee claimants were staying in August, 1997.

Provincial Court Judge Russell Otter rejected him as an expert witness, ruling that remarks he had made to the press after the demonstration, but before charges were laid, could taint his testimony.

Among the statements that Mr. Farber made were: "This is a clear-cut case of hate-mongering" and "If Canada's hate-crimes laws were written for anything, they were written for this."

Mr. Farber was also quoted in another newspaper article saying, "Slam (the skinheads) hard and slam them now."

In his ruling, Judge Otter said: "The bottom line is there is a concern [with] the approach and language used by Mr. Farber in this case -- and I emphasize this case -- urging immediate charges be laid. There is quite logically expert evidence he may give that could be shaded, tailored, tempered and nuanced to achieve that goal.'

Although the job of the defence counsel is to illustrate any potential bias through cross-examination, in the case of an expert witness it may be beyond counsel's ability and expertise to do so, Judge Otter said.

It is the first time Mr. Farber has been rejected. He has been called as an expert witness in nine trials and two labour-relations hearings.

Mr. Farber declined to comment after the judge's ruling because the case is still before the courts.

"We are disappointed that the court won't have the benefit of this expertise, but we pledge to continue to work with government, with the courts and the police in continuing to confront racists and white supremacists," Danny Roth, a spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress, said outside the courtroom.

The case continues today.