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Man behind 2018 Toronto van attack pleads 'not criminally responsible'

TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian man charged with killing 10 people and the attempted murder of 16 in a 2018 van attack in Toronto told a court he should not be held “criminally responsible” as the five-week trial kicked off on Tuesday.

Alek Minassian, 28, rented a van and drove it onto the sidewalk along Yonge Street in North York, a suburb just north of Toronto, striking passersby. He later told police detectives he was motivated by a desire to punish society for his perceived status as an “incel” - short for involuntary celibate - because he believed women would not have sex with him.

Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. He has not denied his role but told the court via Zoom that he was entering a plea of “not criminally responsible” on all counts.

“On a warm spring afternoon... numerous pedestrians were out along Yonge Street enjoying the sun when their worlds were shattered by the actions of Mr. Minassian,” prosecutor Joe Callaghan told the court. “Mr. Minassian will be admitting that he intended to kill the 10 people who died, the murders were planned and deliberate, and that he in fact did cause the death of those people.”

Callaghan added that psychological and psychiatric experts will be called to present evidence.

The trial began with a reading of the agreed statement of facts - a chronological timeline of the events, including Minassian’s conversations with police detectives after he admitted his guilt.

The hearings are scheduled to finish on Dec. 18. The trial is being livestreamed in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the public to attend, with social distancing and mask requirements in place.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Sam Holmes

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