*** Either you walk away or you step up. MS ***
BRAMPTON — In a passionate outburst before a Superior Court judge yesterday, "Toronto 18" member Shareef Abdelhaleem vowed that should he ever hear of another bomb plot, he would simply "walk away" and allow events to take their course.
"I tried my best to reduce everything," testified Abdelhaleem, who insisted yesterday his participation in the Toronto 18 plot was aimed at mitigating harm to civilians.
"Next time -- well, there will be no next time -- but next time I hear someone trying to blow something up, I'm just going to walk away," Abdelhaleem told the court.
If the hypothetical plot then succeeded, he said, he would walk into a police station and inform authorities: "I knew all about this and did absolutely nothing to stop it."
He said he would tell families who lost loved ones the same thing.
Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of participating in a 2006 terrorist plot to bomb three targets in southern Ontario, including a regional Canadian Security Intelligence Service facility, a military base and the Toronto Stock Exchange. The defence argues he was entrapped by police, and Abdelhaleem has been testifying at a hearing on that matter.
Abdelhaleem says he gained an inside line on the bomb plot so he could have the power to stop it -- actions he believes the Crown is now persecuting him for.
Under cross-examination by Crown attorney Croft Michaelson, Abdelhaleem admitted he helped bomb plot leader Zakaria Amara in his plans to acquire three tonnes of ammonium nitrate -- even placing chemical orders on his own initiative at times -- while at the same time failing to voice opposition to the bombings themselves.
But Abdelhaleem attempted to focus the court's attention on his efforts to reduce the amount of harm done by the attacks, dismissing as "outrageous" Amara's alleged plan to include metal shards in the bombs to cause more civilian casualties. Abdelhaleem said he felt obliged to stop that from happening.
"I didn't know what I was going to do. I had no plan," he told the court. But he testified that if Amara moved that part of the plot forward, "I was going to sabotage it somehow."
Abdelhaleem, 34, said he also encouraged the group to make smaller bombs to "reduce" the explosive impact.
"I was not taking an initiative to blow something up," he told the judge, noting he was determined to get the address of the terrorist group's chemical storehouse so "if I were to intervene, I'd know where the store was."
One idea Abdelhaleem says he considered was putting a humidifier inthe storehouse to destroy the bomb chemicals, which were supposed to be kept free of moisture, once they arrived.
Abdelhaleem, who referred to himself as a "middleman" between Amara and undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, told the court he volunteered to play that role because he believed he was doing nothing to advance the plot and thus doing nothing wrong, "so if I'm seen with Amara, that would be OK."
It was also a way to protect Mr. Elsohemy-- whom he considered a friend at the time -- and to gain information about the chemical storehouse, Abdelhaleem testified.
An adamant and animated Abdelhaleem, speaking in a quick burst, told the judge he wanted to "highlight and bold" that point.