Charges laid after Muslim teen assaulted on SkyTrain
Published Wednesday, December 6, 2017 8:34AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 6, 2017 6:57PM PST
Two days after a Muslim teenager was allegedly attacked on public transit without provocation, police have announced charges against a 46-year-old man.
The victim, 17-year-old Noor Fadel, said she was approached by a stranger who was roughly double her size shortly after she boarded the Canada Line in downtown Vancouver Monday night.
The man allegedly hurled racially charged obscenities at her, ripped off her hijab and then slapped her in the face.
"This was extreme," Fadel told CTV News Wednesday. "This guy wanted to hurt me."
Even more disturbingly, there was an apparent sexual aspect to the attack. The teenager said her assailant grabbed her head and pushed it into his clothed crotch.
Of all the passengers on the train, Fadel believes she was singled out because of her religion. Police confirm they are working with B.C.'s Hate Crimes Unit for their investigation.
"He was telling me he was going to kill me, he was going to kill all Muslims. He told me to go back to my country," Fadel said.
Though she was clearly in trouble, the victim said when she looked around the SkyTrain car she initially saw only worried faces staring back at her. Her attacker was yelling at her in Arabic, which she said might have caused some confusion, but she believes there was no mistaking the man's actions for anything but abuse.
Fortunately, one Good Samaritan did step up and intervene.
"I went over there and I gave him a shove, told him to get the F out of there," Jake Taylor said.
The assailant exited the train at the next station, according to Fadel, and she managed to take a picture of a suspect before the doors opened.
She was very shaken up, but Taylor stayed with her until paramedics arrived. In a Facebook post she shared about her experience, the teenager described him as "once a stranger now a dear friend."
Her family said they are very grateful to Taylor for getting involved.
"He did the right thing and he was very, very pivotal in how this situation could have played out. She never would have gotten the photo if he didn't intervene. He should go as a very clear example of how these situations should be dealt with," the victim's brother, Abdul, said.
Fadel reported the incident to transit police, who were able to track a suspect to YVR-Airport Station using surveillance video. He was taken into custody at a convenience store with help from the RCMP.
Pierre Belzan, a 46-year-old with no fixed address, has since been charged with assault and threatening to cause death or bodily harm. Police have also recommended a count of sexual assault, which they said is pending.
Belzan does not have a criminal record, but police said he is "well known" to them.
Police also offered victim services to Fadel, and authorities worked with her to devise a safe plan for future travel on transit. She said she will continue to wear a hijab, but she is nervous about getting back on the SkyTrain.
The teenager said what happened Monday was extreme and terrible, but that none of her Muslim friends are strangers to bigoted behaviour.
"Vancouver is so diverse," she said. "We're a very diverse country. And I felt like I needed to share this, because it's here."
With reports from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure, Nafeesa Karim and St. John Alexander