Toronto 18 bomb plotter Shareef Abdelhaleem testified in a Brampton court Wednesday that he was originally opposed to the explosives plot because he was against terrorism, but that an undercover police agent “was very excited” about the prospect and of making money from such an attack.
The 34-year-old, who is arguing he was entrapped by friend turned informant Shaher Elsohemy, said that when details of the bomb plot were laid out for them by Zakaria Amara, he was opposed to it.
“I reiterated basically why I think Zak was wrong and everything else, this and that. That was my part. Elsohemy seemed to be for it. He was very excited,” recalled Abdelhaleem about a discussion the trio had in early April 2006.
“He was excited in two ways: doing something meaningful, I guess, doing something for God, and the prospect that he wouldn’t have to drive a s---ty car anymore. ... We were talking about making money off the stock market, he was very excited about that.”
Abdelhaleem, who took the stand for the first time in open court, said he raised the issue of making money from a terrorist attack, pointing out to Elsohemy that some people made money after 9/11 but that the discussion “was quickly dismissed.”
He also admitted that he sought advice about how to play the stock market and hide money in an offshore account, but the idea “died out.”
Abdelhaleem told the court that he had talked about going for jihad in Afghanistan and wanted to receive in training in Pakistan. But he dismissed it as idle chatter and as something that many Muslims talk about.
He went on to explain that there is a distinction between jihad and terrorism.
“A jihadist has a certain rules of engagement with whoever he’s performing jihad against. Terrorism is a guy who is blind to all these rules, a guy who is pissed off and wiling to do anything. It’s not right.”
To this day, Abdelhaleem maintains he is against acts of terrorism, and said although prosecutors will have a “hard time” believing him, “you can’t do that, you just can’t do that.”
Throughout his testimony, the Mississauga man appeared restless, often touching his face and rubbing his beard. At points his voice grew louder and at other points he trailed off into inaudible mumbles.
Last week, Abdelhaleem was found guilty of participating in a 2006 explosives plot to bomb targets such as the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto offices of Canada’s spy agency and a military base off Highway 401.
The verdict came days after Amara was sentenced to life for his role in the plot, which included building a remote controlled detonator and purchasing three tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for truck bombs.
This week, defence lawyer William Naylor launched an entrapment hearing to determine whether police conduct in Abdelhaleem’s case constituted an abuse of process.
Abdelhaleem was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006 with belonging to a homegrown terror cell, which organized terrorist training camps and planned to blow up buildings.
At the time of his arrest, court was told, he was a successful software developer whose last tax filings, in 2003 or 2004, showed an annual income of $375,000.
The money, said Abdelhaleem, was spent on “trips, clothes, everything else you know, drinking, drugs, women.”
Before his arrest, there had also been efforts to arrange a marriage between Abdelhaleem and one of the daughters of the infamous Khadr clan, known as Canada’s al Qaeda family.
“I called it off right away. ... I just wanted to stay out of trouble,” said Abdelhaleem, adding, “They’re very nice people from what I hear.”
The hearing is expected to last the week.