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.
A police agent who was paid $4.1 million to infiltrate the so-called Toronto 18 terror cell told a Brampton, Ontario court that money played no role in his motivation. “The only motive I had was based on my moral and civic responsibilities as a Canadian citizen, testified Shaher Elsohemy at the trial of a Mississauga man charged in 2006 with planning to blow up buildings in downtown Toronto.
Elsohemy pointed out that at the time he had no dire need for money because two of his entrepreneurial ventures, a travel business booking tours to Egypt and renting furnished apartments were successful.
While testifying at the trial of 34-year-old Shareef Abdelhaleem, the former friend turned informant said he was approached by agents with Canada’s spy agency in December 2005 and thought it had to do with his problems flying into the US.
Four men have pleaded guilty, a youth was convicted and seven had their charges stayed. The remaining accused are scheduled to begin their trial in the spring. They are not charged with participating in the bomb plot.
The trial is expected to last until the end of the month.