Thursday, January 21, 2010



Toronto 18 member Shareef Abdelhaleem has been found guilty of participating in a bomb plot, but his lawyer will try to put the case on hold by alleging the Crown acted improperly in its investigation.

The defence elected to call no evidence Thursday at Abdelhaleen's trial on charges he participated in a terrorist group and intended to detonate bombs, a spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said Thursday.

As such, the court found the Crown established Abdelhaleem's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, Dan Brien said.

However, a conviction wasn't entered against Abdelhaleem, 34, and the defence is seeking to have the case stayed on the basis of entrapment. Arguments on the entrapment motion are expected Monday.

Bill Gillespie, the security correspondent for CBC News, described the defence move as complicated and designed to reduce Abdelhaleem's punishment.

"If he was to win the argument, then he would not be sentenced, or his sentence will be reduced," Gillespie said.

The defence is expected to argue that if it hadn't been for an RCMP informant, Abdelhaleem would never have gone as far as he did with the plot. The entrapment argument can only be made in the case of a guilty verdict, Gillespie said.

"He can't argue entrapment until he's found guilty of something."

Abdelhaleem and 17 others were arrested in 2006 and charged with terrorism offences. They came to be known as the Toronto 18.

The Crown's only witness, Shaher Elsohemy, was a friend of Abdelhaleem's. He became a police agent and infiltrated the terror cell, which plotted to detonate one-tonne truck bombs at the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an unspecified Ontario military base, court heard.

It is not clear if the defence team will name Elsohemy in the entrapment hearing or another informant, Mubin Shaikh.

Zakaria Amara, 24, the mastermind behind what a judge called the "spine-chilling" plot, was convicted earlier this week and sentenced to life in prison, the stiffest penalty for a terrorist offence, although he could seek parole as early as 2016.

It was the first time the maximum sentenced was handed down under Canada's anti-terrorism laws.

Elsohemy testified that Abdelhaleem initially balked at the bomb plot, saying it was not correct under Islam. Then he became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the stock exchange, Elsohemy said.

The informant testified Abdelhaleem sought the advice of his father, Tariq Abdelhaleem, an engineer who ran an Islamic school, about carrying out a terrorist attack on Canadian soil.

Tariq issued a fatwa, or a religious ruling, that such an action would be "acceptable," placating Abdelhaleem's moral objections, Elsohemy testified.

Abdelhaleem at times had various suggestions for the plot, such as spreading the three bombs over three days instead of detonating them the same day, Elsohemy said. By the fourth day of bombs, Abdelhaleem said, people would be afraid to leave their houses, Elsohemy recalled.

Court heard that Abdelhaleem's view of the plot differed from that of Amara, who wanted to exact "maximum casualties."

Abdelhaleem argued for setting off the bomb at the stock exchange at 6 a.m., when fewer people were around, whereas Amara thought it should happen at 9 a.m., Elsohemy testified.

Abdelhaleem floated several other "more logical" targets if the only intention was to kill people, including: Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ont., a football or soccer game, or a factory, where the food could be poisoned, Elsohemy said.