Informant's motives questioned in Toronto 18 trial
RCMP witness had dispute with suspect, says defence
A police agent who testified against a former friend found guilty of terrorism offences may have had motivations other than his principles, a Toronto court heard Monday.
Shaher Elsohemy was the only witness in the first part of the trial of Shareef Abdelhaleem, who was found guilty last week of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets as part of the Toronto 18 terrorist group.
Though Abdelhaleem was found guilty he was not convicted, as the defence has brought forward a motion seeking to stay the case on the basis of entrapment. Court began hearing evidence in the entrapment motion Monday as defence lawyer William Naylor questioned Elsohemy's handler at CSIS, Canada's spy agency.
Elsohemy had been in contact with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for several months about Abdelhaleem before becoming an RCMP agent given a compensation package worth up to nearly $4 million.
Elsohemy's CSIS contact had written in a report that something more than just principles was behind Elsohemy giving information about Abdelhaleem to Canada's spy agency, court heard.
"[Elsohemy] does not forget an enemy easily," the CSIS contact wrote in his report.
"It appears that he does not brush old contacts or unresolved disputes under the carpet," the contact testified in court after Naylor asked for elaboration.
BMW confrontation sparked falling out
Elsohemy has testified that in exposing the plans of the failed terror attack he wasn't motivated by money, but by a desire to be a moral, responsible Canadian citizen.
Court has previously heard Elsohemy and Abdelhaleem were friends until Abdelhaleem went to police after he suspected Elsohemy's brother of shattering the windshield of his BMW.
Elsohemy testified two weeks ago that Abdelhaleem was "aggressive" about the matter and that Elsohemy ended the friendship because Abdelhaleem was making increasing threats about the situation.
They began talking again after Abdelhaleem sent Elsohemy an instant message saying he was thinking about going "back home" — Abdelhaleem was born in Egypt — to do his "ultimate duty."
Elsohemy began talking to CSIS shortly thereafter.
Court also heard that Elsohemy reported to the CSIS contact that Abdelhaleem refused to store explosives at his house and that he was at first opposed to bombing Parliament buildings in Ottawa, saying he feared it "would do more harm than good for Muslims."
The contact's reports also suggested CSIS was interested in Elsohemy's friendship with Abdelhaleem because Abdelhaleem was close with Zakaria Amara, who was sentenced to life last week in the plot to bomb the CSIS building in Toronto, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base.
Elsohemy testified earlier that Abdelhaleem objected to the plot when it was revealed to them by Amara, but that Abdelhaleem became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The CSIS contact's report from March 23, 2006 quotes Elsohemy as saying he thought Abdelhaleem was "too addicted to creature comforts" to suffer or die for a cause, as he interpreted Abdelhaleem's "ultimate duty" comment to mean.
On Monday, Naylor spent much time discussing a reference in the contact's notes that Elsohemy had fabricated a claim of mental distress against Air Canada, where he was on disability leave as a flight attendant, and that he hoped to get a big disability payout.
When asked about the veracity of this statement, the contact replied that it wasn't important to him for security purposes, so he wouldn't have put much emphasis on the precise details of that situation in his report.
Abdelhaleem and 17 others were charged in June 2006 with terrorism offences. A youth was previously found guilty, five men have pleaded guilty, seven have had their charges dropped or stayed and four others are set to go on trial in March.