Pubdate: Tue, 31 May 2011
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sam Pazzano


A "reverend-brother" of the Church of the Universe gave up his freedom
rather his marijuana smoking.

Shahrooz "Brother Shahrooz" Kharaghani, 32, was sentenced to 2 1/2
months jail for trafficking pot, forsaking a six-month stay-at-home
jail term that would have been imposed by Justice Thea Herman.

Crown attorneys Nick Devlin and Donna Polgar initially proposed the
conditional term, but changed it to a six-month jail term after
"Brother Shahrooz" said he would keep on smoking grass, thus breaking
obey-the-law condition of the stay-at-home sentence.

Herman took two weeks off for time already served, leaving "Brother
Shahrooz" with 10 weeks to serve behind bars.

Herman ruled against the Church of the Universe's bid for an exemption
from Canada's marijuana laws for religious reasons in February. But
"Brother Shahrooz's" drug dealing was markedly different than others
in the business, she noted.

"(His trafficking of cannabis) does not have the hallmarks that
characterize typical drug trafficking, most notably it lacked a
significant profit motive," said Herman.

"He didn't negotiate price; he did not even discuss money. He received
what was given to him and that money went to cover the costs," said
Herman. "The proceeds enabled him to meet his basic needs for food and
clothing and helped sustain the operations of the church."

His co-accused Peter Styrsky, 53, earlier received a time served
sentence of six months.

Styrsky, 53, and Kharaghani, 31, were charged in 2006 with trafficking
after undercover cops accused the pair of selling them cannabis.

Lawyers Paul Lewin and George Filipovic argued their clients believe
marijuana is sacred and brings them closer to God.

Prosecutors Nick Devlin and Donna Polgar said the judge's decision
"means that the courts won't tolerate people setting up recreational
drug convenience stores in their neighbourhoods whether under the
guise of a religion or otherwise.

"Selling marjuana to members of the public is a crime and the
trafficking of marijuana is not a religious activity," Devlin said.

Shahrooz's lawyer George Filipovic said he'll appeal the religious
ruling. It shows the Charter doesn't protect religious freedoms as
police are targeting his client, he said.

"Meanwhile, the 25,000 pot-smokers who lit up in front of Queen's Park
a few weeks ago were left untouched by police," Filipovic said.

"My client will be spending the rest of his life in jail to continue
his religious practice," he said. "The Charter is useless if it can't
prevent this." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.