Toronto 18 member gets life sentence
Shareef Abdelhaleem, tried under Anti-terrorism Act, says sentence is too heavy
Shareef Abdelhaleem, a member of the so-called Toronto 18 who was convicted of participating in a bomb plot, was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson said Abdelhaleem didn't show remorse for his role in a plan to set off three one-tonne fertilizer bombs, including two in downtown Toronto.
"Mr. Abdelhaleem exhibits no genuine remorse or insight into his behaviour and has so far not accepted responsibility for his dangerous actions," Dawson said.
Abdelhaleem, 35, was found guilty in February 2010 of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion.
Dawson said in the Brampton, Ont., court that even though Abdelhaleem claimed he wasn't a major player in the plot, he was instrumental in helping ringleader Zakaria Amara.
Before Dawson's ruling, Abdelhaleem gave a 30-minute statement saying he never intended to hurt anyone.
"I am not denying what I did was wrong," he said. "I am sorry."
He said he loved Canada, and he had never been discriminated against because of his religion or skin colour, but added the system was blatantly unfair.
Wanted to be tried as 'extremist'
Abdelhaleem, tried as an alleged terrorist under Canada's Anti-terrorism Act, argued he should have instead been tried as an "extremist."
That distinction, he argued, deserves a lighter sentence.
Dawson disagreed, saying Abdelhaleem did not understand the seriousness of his offences.
Abdelhaleem and 17 others, who came to be known in the media as the Toronto 18, were arrested in 2006 and charged with terrorism offences.
Seven had their charges dropped or stayed, seven pleaded guilty and four were convicted. Abdelhaleem was the last of the 18 to learn his fate.
Many of them were young men who had just finished high school or were in their early 20s, and had expressed anger over Canada's involvement in the Afghanistan conflict.
Abdelhaleem was different from most of the group because he was older and earned a six-figure salary as an IT specialist, said the CBC's security correspondent, Bill Gillespie. But he became interested in extremist Islam and jihad before joining the others, Gillespie said
"Actually, Abdelhaleem mentioned in court today the fact that regimes are being toppled in the Middle East … actually in a way justified his anger and point of view in the first place," he said. "Dawson didn't buy it."
During his trial, Abdelhaleem told the court he got involved in the plot in an effort to mitigate damage and protect against casualties.
With files from Bill Gillespie, Canadian Press