Khawaja sentenced to 10½ years in prison

An Ontario judge on Thursday sentenced Mohammad Momin Khawaja to 10½ years in prison for financing and facilitating terrorism.

Appeal under consideration, his lawyer says

In this courtroom sketch, Mohammad Momin Khawaja is seen attending his sentencing hearing in Ottawa on Thursday. ((Tammy Hoy/Canadian Press))

An Ontario judge on Thursday sentenced Mohammad Momin Khawaja to 10½ years in prison for financing and facilitating terrorism.

Khawaja didn't show any emotion as Justice Douglas Rutherford spoke for about an hour Thursday morning in Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa.

It's the first sentence handed down under the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act that was pushed through Parliament following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Khawaja, a 29-year-old Ottawa software developer, was convicted last year of five charges of financing and facilitating terrorism for training at a remote camp in Pakistan and providing cash to a group of British extremists, as well as offering them lodging and other assistance.

He was also convicted of two Criminal Code offences — but not any anti-terrorism provisions — related to building a remote-control device to set off explosions. The Crown failed to prove Khawaja knew the trigger would be used in a plot to detonate fertilizer bombs in London.

Arrested in March 2004, Khawaja has spent almost five years in jail while his trial and sentencing played out. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was tried without a jury.

'Willing participant' in plot: judge

Lawyers for the Crown had asked for two life sentences, plus an additional sentence of 44-58 years, while the defence recommended 7½ years, with double credit for time already served.

Rutherford, who called Khawaja "a willing and eager participant" in a terrorist scheme, said he took into account the close to five years Khawaja has already spent behind bars when determining the sentence.

"This is not a case of a vulnerable young person being lured or beguiled into criminal misconduct in which he was not inclined to participate."

The judge said that while Khawaja's construction of the detonator could not be specifically tied to the U.K. plot, "it was intended to unleash fireworks at other as yet unspecified places in the aid of jihad."

Rutherford said Khawaja's decision not to speak to the court during the trial or sentencing hearing made it hard to know whether he had any remorse for his actions.

Khawaja is required to spend at least five years of his sentence in prison before he has any chance of parole.

Appeal being considered

Khawaja's lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said he would meet with his client during the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the conviction.

He said there were "all kinds of problems" with the case, including whether someone can be found guilty for their intentions in a country outside of Canada, and questions about whether political, religious and ideological beliefs can legally be included in the definition of terrorism.

When asked whether he thought Khawaja could have received a lesser sentence by showing remorse, Greenspon said that would be "totally counterproductive."

"I can't have Mr. Khawaja expressing his feeling about what he did or didn't do … when we're looking at a … potential appeal of conviction," he said.

Khawaja has a "partial sense of relief" now that he knows what the worst-case scenario is, said Greenspon.

Found detonator in home

Throughout the case, the defence had argued Khawaja was a peripheral figure in the British-based plot to detonate targets around London. British police and security forces broke up the plot before any bombs were planted.

The five men already convicted by a British jury got life sentences with no parole for at least 17 years.

Greenspon told court that Khawaja was not found guilty of involvement in the British plot and that the electronic trigger — known as the HiFi Digimonster — was never actually used to set off explosions.

The RCMP found the Digimonster in a raid on the Khawaja family home in suburban east Ottawa.

Khawaja's real aim, according to the defence scenario, was to join Islamic insurgents fighting Western troops in Afghanistan, and he thought the detonator would be used there.

The prosecution argued the device — no matter where it was destined to be used — was built with deadly intent and depicted Khawaja as a committed jihadist who chose a "murderous way of life."

Khawaja was born in Ottawa and moved with his family to Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia before returning to Canada.

He obtained a college diploma in computer programming in 2001 and was working on a software project for the Foreign Affairs Department at the time of his arrest.