Quebec City police have officially ruled that the president of a local mosque whose car was set ablaze in August was the victim of a hate crime.
Two suspects have been arrested in relation to the torching, which took place around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 6, in front of Mohamed Labidi's home.
At a press conference on Friday morning, Lt. Jean-François Vézina, spokesperson for the Quebec City police, confirmed that during interrogations, the first suspect admitted they had intentionally targeted Muslims.
Labidi is the president of the Islamic Culture Centre of Quebec City, which made national headlines for trying secure a spot to build a cemetery for Muslims in Quebec, following a terrorist attack at a local mosque. The Jan. 29 massacre left six worshippers dead and 19 people wounded.
The accused, Alexandre Bisonnette, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and will reappear in court next month.
Vézina confirmed that the two suspects allegedly involved in torching Labidi's car did not know he was the president of the Islamic Culture Centre of Quebec City. But they lived close to Labidi's Quebec City home and were acquaintances, he said.
Labidi and his wife were first alerted to the act of vandalism when his wife heard the explosion triggered by the blaze. The fire spread to the hedge in their front yard.
The act, now being treated by police as a hate crime, took place about 36 hours after Quebec City's municipal government announced that it would sell some land to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City to create the region's first Muslim-only cemetery. The centre's previous efforts to secure land in the small eastern Quebec town of Saint-Apollinaire for the grave site were rejected by its residents in a vote.
On Friday, Quebec police also confirmed that their two suspects have not been linked to specific extreme-right groups, such as La Meute. Both however, are suspects in the cases of seven other criminal fires. The first suspect, said Vézina, was arrested on Thursday and the second was arrested Friday morning following the interrogation of the first.
At the time of publication, neither Labidi nor the Cultural Islamic Centre had issued public comments on the updates.