I'm at the Edmonton Courthouse today covering final submissions in the Syrian refugee West Edmonton Mall sexual assault trial.
Soleimen Hajj Soleimen, a 39 year old Syrian refugee and father of six, stands accused of six counts of sexual interference and six counts of sexual assault against six girls aged 13 to 15.
The charges stem from a series of alleged gropings and sexual assaults that took place at Edmonton’s World Waterpark February 4 2017.
Once again, the accused required full Arabic to English word for word translation, despite being in Canada for two and a half years, again a lone CBC reporter was in the courtroom.
The prosecution's closing argument focused on the positive identifications from the minor victims, the police officers, security guards and lifeguards as well as another unrelated witness to the incidents. All identified the accused at trial from the stand and all described the accused on the day of the incident as a brown or olive skinned man with a beard, in blue swimming trunks and goggles.
The closing from the defence focused on the possibility of a false identification, despite very similar descriptions from every witness, pointing out inconsistencies in the descriptions of the length of the man's beard, hair length and shade of swimming trunks.
That's the legal wrangling story of today, but there was so much more than legal machinations in the courtroom.
For much of the two weeks of trial at the end of January and beginning of February, I was the solitary reporter in the courtroom and, with the exception of one or two other people and Hajj Solomon's rotating cadre of six aging liberal do-gooders, the courtroom was empty.
But today the courtroom was so full of support for the six girls that we had to switch to a larger courtroom!
The same six people supporting the accused attended but there were also several family members of the victims and around thirty bikers - men and women - who showed up in force in their regalia to show support for the girls and their families.
One woman I spoke with said she felt compelled to be there after learning that no one had been there for the girls during the trial.
Clint Goodrich, president of the local chapter for the Guardians of the Children Canada told me that he was not here to intimidate anyone but rather, that his group came to show support for the girls, to offer them strength and help give them confidence as they faced the accused.
Vinny Wilcox. president of the Urban Bulldogs Against Kid Abuse said he was contacted through a mutual friend of one of the girl’s moms and he and his organization came to be there for them too.
Both men told me their respective non profit organizations work to fundraise to help child victims of crime and assured me they will support the girls long after the trial is over.
That’s the good news. The girls have a community rallying around them. The bad news is that justice won't be meted out until July 6 2018, when the judge delivers her verdict.
I’ll be here for that too.