Quebec man sentenced to life for al-Qaida-linked bomb plot

A rural Quebec man was sentenced to life in prison for his role in an overseas terrorist bomb plot by an Al Qaeda affiliated group. It is just the second time in Canadian legal history that a life sentence has been handed down in a terrorism case, after the one last month to one of the so-called ‘Toronto 18′, Crown prosecutors said.

Said Namouh was found guilty in October 2009 of four terrorism-related charges relating to a loosely planned plot to bomb targets in Germany and Austria. The terror attack was motivated by those countries’ military presence in Afghanistan.

Namouh was involved with the Global Islamic Media Front, an organization recognized by the court as a terrorist group that took part in propaganda and jihad recruitment. Namouh, 37, will have no chance of parole for at least 10 years. Namouh is a permanent resident. Canada has already begun procedures to have him deported to his native Morocco.

Stricter punishment for “religious violence”

The ministry of justice confirmed on Wednesday that serious consideration was being given to the establishment of a new category of aggravating circumstances targeting “religiously motivated violence.” Aggravating circumstances can be crucial during sentencing procedures, where they can play a role in leading to the stricter punishments. Though the ministry denies a direct connection, this question has come about following the controversial sentencing of a man of Turkish origin in mid-January. On account of his personal background and traditions, the man was sentenced to attempted manslaughter and not attempted murder in the case of his near fatal knife attack on his wife, who had told him that she wanted a divorce.

The general secretary of the ÖVP (conservative), Fritz Kaltenegger, declared that violence in the family must be dealt with severely, and that “it is the task of politics to adapt the legal framework to social developments.” The minister of justice, Claudia Bandion-Ortner, was careful to stress that this development was not to be understood as a continuation of the debate on “cultural crimes,” begun two years ago by the interior minister, Maria Fekter. Thus, Bandion-Ortner continued, there is no plan to adopt new sentencing guidelines for forced mariages or honor killings: “murder is still murder, and more than a life sentence cannot be imposed.” Nevertheless, she did mention that an additional category of aggravating circumstances may be forthcoming, aimed at “general behavior which attempts to impose upon someone a lifestyle that is not consistent with our society.” This would apply, for example, to parents who refuse to send their children to public school, or who do not allow girls contact with men, out of religious considerations.

Criticism of the proposal has come from legal experts, the SPÖ (social democrat) and the Greens, the Catholic church and Muslim groups. Helmut Fuchs, head of the Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Vienna, called the idea absolutely unnecessary, while saying that “non-religiously motivated violence is no less reprehensible than religiously motivated violence.” The minister for women and public service, Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, gave voice to her displeasure at the mixing of religion and criminal law, stating that crimes such as genital mutilation or honor killings had less to do with religion than with tradition and power structures. Erich Leitenberger of the archdiocese of Vienna echoed this position with his view that such “dubious cultural practices” had nothing to do with religion. Meanwhile, Carla Amina Baghajati, spokesperson for the Austrian Islamic Community, stated that violence against women can be fought with Islamic sources as well, and can be part of the solution – as was the case in the fight against female genital mutilation. She continued by saying that legitimizing these practices as “religious” could contribute to the problem, and proposed instead the adoption of the internationally established notion of “harmful traditional practices.”

Saudi-funded Islamic school in Virginia seeks expansion, meets protests

Protesters of the expansion of a Saudi government- funded Islamic school say they fear an increase in traffic in the area. But debates usually transform into hot discussions about the spread of radical Islam through the school.

The Islamic Saudi Academy is seeking to serve more students, and area residents are concerned. “I submit no Catholic textbook has anything near the venom and demonstrated incitement to murder as these Saudi textbooks,” one resident says.

One parent of a student of the academy says there are no problems with radicalism: “If we were breeding terrorists, you would be hearing about it from the students.”

However, the school does have problems. A former valedictorian is currently serving a life sentence for plotting to assassinate President Bush.

Canadian would-be “Toronto 18” terrorist handed life sentence

A Canadian terrorist was sentenced to life in prison in a precedent-setting judgment in the case of young al-Qaida-inspired extremists who plotted to blow up their fellow citizens. Calling the conspiracy “spine chilling,” Mr. Justice Bruce Durno imposed the stiffest sentence since the federal government put anti-terrorism laws on the books in 2001.

“The potential for loss of life existed on a scale never before seen in Canada,” Judge Durno said as he read aloud his 48-page decision. Four years ago, Zakaria Amara was a university dropout working as a gas jockey in Mississauga. Then 20, he lived a secret life, relentlessly, almost rabidly, pursuing a goal: bombing Canadian targets to force the government to end its military mission in Afghanistan.

Mr. Amara will be eligible for parole in about six years, which will coincide with his 30th birthday. However, he must persuade authorities that he should regain his liberty.

Life sentence for Dresden courtroom murderer

Alex W., the man who stabbed pregnant Egyptian pharmacist Marwa al-Sherbini to death in a courtroom in Dresden in July, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The judge imposed the harshest possible sentence under the German system by ruling that W. will not be eligible for parole after 15 years.

International attention to the case was high. Responses to the verdict have generally been positive, except for those who demanded a death sentence or extradition to Egypt for a death penalty, both of which possibilities have been abolished in the EU. The Egyptian ambassador to Germany was pleased with the sentence, as it was the highest possible.

German Muslims warned against growing Islamophobia in Germany, but welcomed the sentence, which is also a sign that Islamophobic currents are not institutionalized in Germany. Many newspapers discuss the fact that society must remain vigilant and it must always ensure an environment in which wearing the veil – an initial spark of the tragedy – does not become life-threatening.

Airline bomb plot ringleader gets 40 years in UK

A British judge on Monday sentenced the ringleader of a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic planes with liquid explosives to at least 40 years in jail and three fellow British Muslims to long prison sentences. The sentences for the planned suicide bombings were among the longest ever handed out by a British court in a terrorism case.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was given a minimum sentence of 40 years for plotting the biggest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Assad Sarwar, 29, was ordered to serve at least 36 years in prison and Tanvir Hussain, 28, was sentenced at least 32 years. A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and received a minimum of 22 years. Jurors were unable to decide in his case whether he intended to target aircraft in the plot.

The men had planned to smuggle explosives aboard the planes disguised as soft drinks and detonate them while flying. Prosecutors said they were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when they were arrested in August 2006.

Massive controversies over Scotland’s release of Lockerbie bomber

Scotland freed the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds Thursday, allowing the terminally ill man to die in his homeland of Libya and rejecting American pleas for justice in the attack that killed 270 people in 1988. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who had served only eight years of his life sentence, was recently given only months to live after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said although al-Megrahi had not shown compassion to his victims — many of whom were American college students flying home to New York for Christmas — MacAskill was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.

Al-Megrahi returned home to a crowd of thousands of cheering young men, despite Barack Obama’s warning against a hero’s welcome. As Megrahi disembarked at the military airport in Tripoli where his plane landed, supporters — some wearing T-shirts bearing his picture — threw flower petals in the air and waved Libyan and miniature Scottish flags while music played.

On Monday, Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill defended his decision to free the Lockerbie bomber on humanitarian grounds in the face of severe criticism from the United States government and relatives of U.S. victims.