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Montreal - Lawyers sought Friday to relieve pressure on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, demanding proof of claims he smoked crack cocaine amid growing calls for his resignation.
Ford's longtime friend and occasional driver Alexander Lisi was granted bail in court on extortion charges related to his attempts to recover a video of the incident.
He was banned from contacting the mayor and any suspects in the case such as Mohamed Siad, who is suspected of trying to sell the video to the media.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told reporters on Thursday that investigators have gotten hold of the infamous video purportedly showing Ford smoking the highly addictive stimulant from a glass pipe at a crack house.
Ford has steadfastly denied the allegations ever since US and Canadian media first reported its existence in May.
But the mayor's lawyer Dennis Morris stressed that the police chief had not confirmed that Ford was actually seen smoking crack cocaine in the video, only that he appeared in the clip.
“I urge the chief to release the video as soon as possible to let the citizens decide what they see,” Morris told Radio Canada.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
US gossip website Gawker has said that it has seen the footage, which reportedly showed a man resembling Ford lolling back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass crack pipe.
The clip was also initially reported by Canada's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star.
The outlines of Ford's defense are now becoming clear.
His lawyers claim that no charge can stand on its own if it is solely based on the video.
Even if Ford is shown smoking a pipe, they claim, prosecutors cannot determine whether he was in fact smoking tobacco legally or marijuana, which would allow punitive damages, or crack cocaine, which could trigger criminal charges.
Despite his denials of smoking crack, the 44-year-old mayor has admitted he has a penchant for marijuana.
Police have provided prosecutors with hundreds of pages from their investigation, including multiple photographs of key places or people in the case, transcribed telephone calls and other details.
And Blair has acknowledged that criminal charges against Ford were not warranted based on the video, although prosecutors may lay more charges in the case.
Canadian media have reported about alleged meetings or telephone calls Ford had with drug traffickers, and an investigator said the police's job was far from over.
Heavily-redacted court documents detail months of police surveillance of Ford meeting with Lisi at gas stations, a city park, football fields and outside Lisi's home, which is just around the corner from apartments targeted by police in a drug raid.
Authorities used cameras mounted on telephone poles, tracking devices on cars, listening devices and even a small airplane flying low over the Toronto suburb where Ford lives.
They also detailed how Lisi in the hours after news first broke about the video called an alleged gang member and the resident of a notorious drug house where the video was purportedly shot.
Police technicians eventually recovered the video and other data from a hard drive seized mid-June, after it had been deleted.
Ford, meanwhile, faced growing calls to vacate his office.
“Rob Ford needs to stand down,” the Toronto Sun, which has long been loyal to the mayor, said an editorial.
The Globe and Mail said “Toronto deserves better than Ford,” while the Star charged that “for the sake of Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford should resign.”
“If Ford possessed even a scintilla of respect and concern for the city he is supposed to lead, he would do the right thing. He would step down as mayor,” the Star added.
“But don't expect to see that any time soon, for one simple reason: Rob Ford is not an honorable man.”