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Defence calling no evidence for man accused of killing Burnaby girl

Closing arguments in the Ibrahim Ali murder trial are expected to begin on Nov. 30.

The man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl found dead in a Burnaby park more than six years ago will not take the stand in his own defence.

Ibrahim Ali's defence team has elected not to present evidence or call any witnesses, meaning the next step in the case will be closing arguments.  

Ali is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of the girl, whose body was found in Central Park just after 1 a.m. on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing.

Ali has pleaded not guilty.

The girl cannot be named because of a publication ban.

The Crown wrapped up its case on Friday (Nov. 17), nearly seven months after its opening statement on April 28.

On Tuesday, defence lawyer Kevin McCullough told the court Ali had elected not to present evidence or call witnesses.

People accused of crimes in Canada have a right to remain silent and that includes not having to answer the allegations against them in court.

Because they are presumed innocent, it is up to the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

McCullough said the Crown had not met that burden.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lance Bernard told the jury Ali's election not to call a case meant the "evidentiary portion" of the trial had concluded.

He told them closing arguments were expected to begin on Thursday, Nov. 30.

"Given the length of this trial, preparation of the closing addresses of counsel and my instructions to you will take some time," Bernard said. "It is important that counsels' addresses to you as well as my final instructions to you be clear and helpful to you in exercising your role as the jury in this case."

After the closing statements, Bernard said he would give the jury final instructions and they would then begin deliberations. 

Once deliberations begin, Bernard warned jurors they would be sequestered until they reached a verdict, meaning they wouldn't be allowed to return home or attend appointments.

"I owe continuing gratitude to you for your service as jurors in this case," Bernard told the remaining 13 jurors.

The trial, which began on April 5, was expected to last only till the end of June but has been plagued with delays, including a week when Bernard himself was unexpectedly absent from court.

The Crown's theory in the case is that Ali and the girl were strangers to one another and that he attacked her on a trail in Central Park, dragged her into the forest and strangled her to death while sexually assaulting her.

The defence has not outlined its theory but has suggested the killer and whoever had sex with the young teen — "either forced sex or sex" — are not the same people.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor