*** Saad Gaya received 12 years with 7 1/2 years credit for pre-trial custody leaving him with 4 1/2 years. MS ***
Former Mac student accused in terror trial apologizes, asks for leniency
December 23, 2009
BRAMPTON, Ont. — An Oakville man who confessed to being part of a homegrown terror cell that was plotting to blow up truck bombs in Toronto apologized to a Brampton court on Wednesday for his “shameful crime.”
Addressing the court at the end of his sentencing hearing, Saad Gaya said he was “extremely grateful” the scheme “did not progress any further” and asked for leniency.
“Some people believe that I must have been driven by a dark ideology of hatred, nihilism and destruction,” said the member of the so-called Toronto 18, requesting people not brand him a “terrorist.”
He said he was “politically naive” and believed the group’s actions would result in Canada withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Gaya, 22, said he didn’t know the intended targets were the Toronto Stock Exchange and the downtown offices of Canada’s spy agency.
He said he initially thought a police station was the target, but was later told it was a military base around the Greater Toronto Area, adding he believed no one would be hurt.
Gaya is among 18 people charged in 2006. He was arrested while unloading a delivery truck filled with three tonnes of bags marked ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
The plot involved using three times more ammonium nitrate than was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
Gaya has pleaded guilty to belonging to a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion that would likely cause serious bodily harm.
The Crown is seeking a sentence of up to 18 years. The prosecution has argued Gaya was a willing participant and should have known a plot involving three tonnes of explosives would have caused serious harm or death — and if not, he was willfully blind.
But the defence argued Gaya was duped and didn’t know the plan was to unleash a series of explosives deadlier than the London subway bombings of 2005.
If the judge rules there was intent to kill, the defence suggested a sentence in the range of 9 to 15 years. If there was no intent, an appropriate sentence would be five to eight years, says the defence.
According to a psychiatric report by Drs. Steven Cohen and Lisa Ramshaw, Gaya’s motivation for joining the group “did not flow from antisociality, impulsivity or psychopathy.
It stemmed from “his religious beliefs, his sympathy toward the suffering ”limbs“ of the Muslim nation and in his perceived sense of duty to stand up to the Canadian government toward change in foreign policy.”
While there is no evidence the former McMaster University science student poses a significant risk to himself or others in the short-term, the doctors noted that based on his past behaviour “risk over the long-term period cannot ruled out.”
*** Did not know whether it was a police station or military base but thinks no one would have been killed? And this is the same guy who got 90's in class then a scholarship to MacMaster in Engineering and yet, did not think anyone would die in a 1-ton bomb explosion. Riiiiiight. ***
Try this version from the Toronto Sun:
Terrorist pleads for leniency
'Irrational decision' to aid T.O. plot
By IAN ROBERTSON, TORONTO SUN
Last Updated: 24th December 2009, 3:43am
BRAMPTON -- A "Toronto 18" recruit in a terror plot labelled the Battle of Toronto -- a plan to bomb the CSIS building, the Toronto Stock Exchange and a military base -- apologized yesterday for betraying his fellow Canadians.
Appealing for leniency at a pre-sentencing hearing, Saad Gaya, 22, said: "What I was a part of was absolutely wrong.
"Not only have I let myself down, but I have also let down everyone whom I have ever been associated," the slender science student who was raised in Oakville and Toronto read in a clear, steady voice.
Apologizing "for my irrational decision," he told Mr. Justice Bruce Durno: "I should have realized I was playing with fire.
"I was young and politically naive."
Insisting he was not raised in a "hate-filled environment" or brainwashed, Gaya said: "This is not why my parents sacrificed and worked so hard for and this is not what my teachers and professors dedicated their time for."
Arrested in June 2006 after helping unload two tonnes of fertilizer bought for use as explosives, Gaya pleaded guilty in September to intending to cause an explosion to benefit a terrorist group.
Prosecutors have quoted al-Qaida-inspired organizer Zakaria Amara telling recruits bombings would influence Canada to pull troops from Afghanistan.
During final submissions, prosecutor Croft Michaelson said Gaya was "perhaps a naive man perhaps upset by events overseas," who showed "a willingness to participate in urban terrorism.
"He was prepared to wage war on the country of his birth," the Crown attorney said.
Quoting from an interrogation transcript, Michaelson said Gaya told a detective Amara promised he would become "a hero, like in the eyes of God," that preparing bombs was "our duty."
Lawyer Paul Slansky said his client would have quit if he thought people would die.
Amara, 24, who pleaded guilty in October to knowingly participating in a terrorist group, plus intending to cause an explosion to benefit a terrorist group, intended to turn his team into truck-driving suicide bombers.
Two psychiatrists warned that Gaya -- whose parents and about 40 men and women sat silently throughout the proceedings -- might participate in future extremist violence, Michaelson said.
"He was motivated by his religious beliefs and his sympathy over the suffering limbs of the Muslim nation," he said, quoting the psychiatrists.
"That's the definition of an extremist," Michaelson said, asking Durno for a 17-year sentence.
Saudi-born Saad Khalid, 23, of Erin Mills, who was also arrested after unloading the fertilizer, was previously sentenced to 14 years.
Slansky argued Gaya should get a lower term since his involvement was less.
Gaya will be sentenced Jan. 18 -- the same day as Amara.
Others, whose names cannot be published yet, await trial.