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Accused spy opts for judge and jury trial in Nova Scotia

Canadian Forces Navy Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle arrives at the provincial court for a bail hearing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 30, 2012.


A Canadian naval officer accused of spying has elected to be tried by judge and jury in Nova Scotia's Supreme Court.

Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle is charged with passing state secrets to a foreign country and was denied bail this past spring.

He won't likely face trial before the fall of 2012– or possibly the spring of 2013.

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The sailor, 41, has not yet entered a plea and his appearance in the Supreme Court will start with a preliminary inquiry – a process for discovering whether the Crown has amassed enough evidence to go the trial.

A date for the preliminary inquiry will be set Wednesday.

SLt. Delisle remains in custody in Halifax. The sailor, who last worked at Trinity, a Halifax naval intelligence hub, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

The Globe and Mail reported in March that the fallout from the Delisle case has done significant damage to Ottawa's treasured intelligence-sharing relationships with key allies such as the U.S.

The Canadian government has refused to say which country is alleged to have received secrets. Russia's ambassador to Canada has said Moscow has an agreement with the Canadian government to "keep quiet" about any connection between his country and the spy charges.

The Globe and Mail has also reported that government sources say more than one Russian diplomat was asked to leave Canada as a result of the Delisle case.

The RCMP further allege that the alleged espionage took place over a four-and-a-half year period, beginning on July 6, 2007 and including locations "at or near" Ottawa, Kingston, Halifax, Bedford "and elsewhere."

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As recently as early January, RCMP allege, the sailor tried to leak confidential government information.

In court documents, the force alleges that, between Jan. 10 and Jan. 13, SLt. Delisle attempted "to communicate with a foreign entity information that the Government of Canada is taking measures to safeguard."

The charge of passing secrets is the first ever laid under Canada's Security of Information Act, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

SLt. Delisle led a rich second life online as "Baron Mordegan," an avid Internet gamer and a collector of medieval fantasy gear, his ex-wife told The Globe and Mail in March.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail in March, Jennifer Delisle said her former husband was an excessive computer user.

"He admitted he had a computer addiction problem," she said.

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SLt. Delisle used the Internet screen handle "Baron Mordegan" during their 13 years of marriage, his ex-wife remembers. They divorced in 2010.

She said he once explained that it came from a 1988 fantasy movie titled Willow.

The George Lucas film, which hit theatres two years before SLt. Delisle graduated from high school, is a sword-and-sorcery tale. There's no character named "Baron Mordegan" in the script, but there is one named "Madmartigan," a renegade warrior who redeems himself.

Ms. Delisle said her ex-husband was already hooked on medieval and military history when she met him at age 15.

The Canadian Forces member devoted hours of free time to the immersive online fare, she recalled.

"He played a lot of games like Ultimate Online, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars, and he actually let our kids play a lot of video games like that too," she said.

SLt. Delisle, she said, would also spend large amounts of money on his medieval fantasy games.

"I remember he would trade weapons online, like a virtual sword for 300 bucks or something. I never really understood it," she said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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