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Polygamy charges thrown out

Two fundamentalist religious leaders from the Interior community ofBountiful won’t be tried for polygamy-related offences after a BritishColumbia Supreme Court judge quashed the charges.

Two fundamentalist religious leaders from the Interior community of Bountiful won’t be tried for polygamy-related offences after a British Columbia Supreme Court judge quashed the charges.

Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44, were investigated earlier this year on the suspicion of having more than one wife — which is illegal.

When authorities and a special prosecutor opted not to charge the men for fear of violating their religious freedoms, then-Attorney General Wally Oppal appointed a second special prosecutor to review the case.

Yesterday, Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein said Oppal didn’t have the authority to appoint a new special prosecutor, and threw out the charges.

Nancy Mereska, a retired social activist who’s devoted the past six years of her life to a campaign called Stop Polygamy in Canada, said she’s devastated by the decision.

“We are back to square one,” she said, breaking down. “The polygamists will see this as a great victory.”

Mereska said the legal system is placing greater importance on religious rights than on the rights of women and children.

“There’s no freedom in polygamy,” she said.

“I called Audrey Vance, with the committee in Creston to help women and children escape polygamy, and she said, ‘If they suspect someone has marijuana, they (arrest them). Why is it not the same with polygamy?’

“I’m sick, I’m just sick.”

Both Premier Gordon Campbell and Attorney General Mike de Jong said they are considering Stromberg-Stein’s decision.

 
 
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