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.

Crown to appeal “Toronto 18” terror sentence

Canadian prosecutors have indicated they will appeal a 12-year prison sentence handed down to Saad Gaya, one of the “Toronto 18” group accused of planning al Qaeda-style bombings of Toronto landmarks in 2006. The Crown had sought a harsher sentence for Gaya, who pleaded guilty in September to plotting an explosion likely to cause death, the most serious of the charges against the “Toronto 18” group of extremists.

Police say Gaya and the other alleged plotters had planned to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CN Tower and other downtown targets in Canada’s largest city. Gaya’s sentence came on the same day that the alleged ringleader of the group, Zakaria Amara, was given a life sentence, the stiffest yet imposed under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Shareef Abdelhaleem, accused in Toronto 18, planned to derail bomb plot

Shareef Abdelhaleem testified before a Canadian court that he purposely positioned himself as the middleman of a potentially deadly terrorist plot because he wanted to learn key details about it in case he decided to sabotage it. The member of the so-called Toronto 18 said he was as an “outsider”, and not part of the ‘bombing club,’ which he said was made up of mastermind Zakaria Amara and undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, who was to supply bomb making material.

One week ago, Abdelhaleem was found guilty of participating in a 2006 explosives plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto offices of Canada’s spy agency and a military base off Highway 401. Before a conviction is registered, the judge must rule on whether Abdelhaleem was entrapped.

Abdelhaleem was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006 with belonging to a cell that organized terrorist training camps and planned to blow up buildings with three tones of ammonium nitrate. Amara has been sentenced to life in prison.

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.

Undercover “Toronto 18” agent claims money not a factor

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.

“Toronto 18” Canadian terrorist group leader apologizes to Canadians

The 24-year-old Canadian mastermind of an al-Qaida-inspired plot to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto has issued an abject apology to Canadians.

“I deserve nothing less than your complete contempt,” Mr. Amara told Mr. Justice Bruce Durno as he read an “open letter to Canadians” during his sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last October and is to be sentenced next week.

These were the first public remarks by Mr. Amara, a ringleader of the so-called “Toronto 18” plot, who spent the spring of 2006 trying to procure huge quantities of explosive chemicals in order to build truck bombs. Starting off by quoting the Qur’an, in hindsight, he said his interpretation of Islam was “naïve and gullible,” and that his belief system made worse by the fact he had “isolated himself from the real world.” It wasn’t until he got to prison, he said, that he began to learn tolerance. Mr. Amara, a Sunni Muslim, talked of how he had also befriended a Jewish inmate, and a Shia Muslim, men from two religions he would have viewed with only contempt prior to his incarceration.

Mr. Amara faces life in prison, a punishment which the Crown is requesting. He will get one of the stiffest – if not the stiffest – terrorism sentence imposed since Parliament passed the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Police informant paid millions to infiltrate Toronto terrorism group testifies

A police agent who was paid $4.1 million CAD to infiltrate an alleged terror group testified for the first time on the opening day of the trial for Shareef Abdelhaleem, a member of the so-called Toronto 18.

Abdelhaleem, 34, is alleged to have used his friend, undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, to set up the purchase of three tones of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, destined for truck bombs targeting sites in downtown Toronto.

This morning, Elsohemy, currently in witness protection, told a Brampton court that he had developed a “strong” friendship with Abdelhaleem and frequented an Islamic school in Mississauga run by the accused’s father. Their relationship was such that the two vacationed together, taking a trip to Morocco in 2005.

“A $4.1 million payoff is pretty steep…It’s unprecedented in Canada,” Abdelhaleem’s lawyer, William Naylor told reporters, adding that’s one of the problems with the case against his client. He went on to suggest that Elsohemy was more concerned with getting money than searching for the truth.

Remaining six of “Toronto 18” face trials in 2010

The case of Canada’s notorious homegrown terror plot enters a significant phase in 2010 with the trials upcoming for the final six alleged members, accused of attending a training camp and plotting to bomb various targets. The Crown has alleged some of the men held a terrorism training camp north of Toronto and that others were involved in the bomb plot.

One of the remaining men is expected to have his trial by judge in January, while the other five men’s case is expected to be put in front of a jury starting in March.

The guilty pleas and the outcome of the first man’s trial will have absolutely no bearing on the last five men’s case, said lawyer William Naylor, who represents the man who will stand trial in January. The fact that those five men have elected trial by jury is breaking new ground. This is the first time an Anti-Terrorism Act case will be tried by a jury. All of the six men awaiting trial have been in custody since their arrests in June 2006, except for one, who was granted bail in August.

17 years in prison for man linked to the Toronto 18 terrorism group

An Atlanta man with ties to members of the so-called Toronto 18 terror cell has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiring to support terrorists by videotaping US landmarks.

Twenty-three-year-old Ehsanul Islam Sadequee could have received as many as 60 years in prison at Monday’s hearing.

Sadequee, a US citizen, was convicted of four terror-related charges in August for sending the tapes of landmarks in Washington to terror suspects overseas in hopes of boosting his reputation.

His friend Syed Haris Ahmed, also a US citizen, faces 15 years in prison at a sentencing hearing later Monday. Ahmed, 24, was convicted in June of conspiring to support terrorist groups. The court heard that the co-conspirators developed relationships over the Internet with other supporters of violent jihad in the US, Canada, Britain, Pakistan, Bosnia and beyond.

In March 2005, the Americans travelled to Toronto to meet members of the Toronto 18, an alleged homegrown terror cell that was broken up by Canadian authorities in June 2006 when 14 men and four youths from the GTA were arrested. Since the mass arrests, seven of those charged from the Toronto group have had their charges stayed, five have been convicted and six are awaiting trial.

An Atlanta court was told that during the week-long trip to Canada, the American men met several times, including once in an unidentified Toronto mosque, with two Toronto 18 members, whose trial is expected to start in the spring.

Assistant US Attorney Robert McBurney told a Georgia court that online chatter revealed one of the Toronto men had spoken with Ahmed and Sadequee about going to Pakistan.

Canadian Irshad Manji comments on Fort Hood

In this article Irshad Manji points to how Americans are posing questions about the Fort Hood shootings, demonstrating that they are far from rushing to judgment. If an alleged criminal merely happens to be a Muslim, then religion may well be immaterial. But if his crime is committed in the name of Islam, then religion serves to motivate. In that case, the suspect’s Muslim identity absolutely matters. Words, gestures and images should be analyzed – fully, openly and honestly, says Manji. She compares this instance to the arrests of the Toronto 18 on terrorism charges in 2006, and how police refused to use to use the words “Muslim” in their press releases, even though the group can coined their organization, “Operation Badr.” She claims that while journalists must not reduce the story to Islam, they should not to erase Islam altogether. Understanding, she concludes, is served by analyzing, not sanitizing.