A Canadian man accused of deliberately running over and killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, as jury selection for his trial started.
Nathaniel Veltman is accused of deliberately hitting the Afzaal family members with his truck as they were out for a walk on the evening of June 6, 2021. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Standing next to the accused as the court registrar read the charges, defense lawyer Christopher Hicks entered not guilty pleas on Veltman’s behalf.
Veltman, who wore a long-sleeve white shirt and black pants in court, was sitting quietly between his defense lawyers Hicks and Peter Ketcheson during the jury selection process.
Jury selection was set to continue on Wednesday for the trial that is expected to last 12 weeks.
Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance ruled last year that a change of venue is warranted in the case, moving the trial from London to Windsor, Ontario.
The reasons for that decision, as well as the evidence and arguments presented in court, cannot be disclosed due to a publication ban.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed in the attack. The couple’s 9-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.
Pomerance said the prosecution is alleging that Veltman, who was 20 at the time of his arrest, was motivated by extremist right-wing views associated with White supremacy when he intentionally drove his truck over a curb to strike the Muslim family members.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The attack on the Afzaal family sent waves of shock, grief and fear across Canada and spurred ongoing calls for measures to combat Islamophobia in the country.
The City of London dedicated a garden to the Afzaal family.