Coutts protest leaders to go on trial in 2024

Marco Van Huigenbos, one of the organizers of the protests, will go on trial in April 2024, alongside two co-accused. (Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Marco Van Huigenbos, one of the organizers of the protests, will go on trial in April 2024, alongside two co-accused. (Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A three-week trial has been set for the three Alberta men accused of organizing the border blockade and protests last year at Coutts, Alta.

Marco Van Huigenbos, 32, a Fort Macleod town councillor, faces a charge of mischief over $5,000, as do Alex Van Herk, 53, and George Janzen, 43.

Lawyers for the men appeared in Lethbridge court on Monday and booked a jury trial for April 2, 2024.

In March, Van Huigenbos was reprimanded for what Fort Macleod Mayor Brent Feyter described as "unacceptable behaviour."

In a letter posted to the town's website, Feyter expressed "grave concerns" about Van Huigenbos's role as a blockade organizer.

The on-again, off-again blockade at the busy Coutts crossing started on Jan. 29 and ended Feb. 15 after police raids resulted in more than a dozen arrests and the seizure of a cache of weapons, ammunition and body armour.

When interviewed the day after the raids, Van Huigenbos told CBC News the protest was "infiltrated by an extreme element" and said the remaining protesters had decided to "peacefully leave Coutts and return to [their] families."

In his testimony at the Emergencies Act inquiry in November, Van Huigenbos told the commission he felt the discovery of weapons tainted the movement.

"For me, it became very clear that every objective we were looking to achieve was no longer possible and our message had been lost," he said.

Charges dropped against 3 men

Initially, RCMP laid charges against 14 people. Four men — Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin — are facing the most serious offences, conspiracy to murder RCMP officers.

Since then, prosecutors have dropped the charges against Luke Berk, 63, Johnson Law, 40, and Janx Zaremba, 19, who were facing mischief and weapons offences.

The four men accused of plotting to murder police officers will go on trial in June.

Unsealed court documents show RCMP ran an undercover operation and used an "imminent harm" wiretap to justify the execution of search warrants and the laying of charges.

RCMP believed the men accused of conspiring to murder police officers were stockpiling weapons to arm themselves and others in preparation for a standoff with police.