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February 24, 2010

Informant paid millions in the Toronto 18 case

Scott Stockdale

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A judge has dismissed Toronto 18 member Shareef Abdelhaleem's claim that he was entrapped by police.

He was found guilty of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets, but a conviction had not been registered, pending a defence motion claiming entrapment. 

Mr. Abdelhaleem is a computer programmer who earned a six-figure income and drove a convertible BMW.

After the defence elected to call no evidence on the issue of guilt or innocence on charges of participating in a terrorist group and intending to detonate bombs, the court found the Crown had established Mr. Abdelhaleem's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under Canadian criminal law a defendant must be found guilty before putting forth a motion claiming entrapment.

The Crown's only witness, Shaher Elsohemy, whom the RCMP paid $4 million, to infiltrate a terror cell, was a former friend of Mr. Abdelhaleem. 

The police said the group plotted to detonate three one-tonne truck bombs at the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an unspecified Ontario military base, court heard.

In an address to the court, Mr. Abdelhaleem attacked the Crown's theory that he was a key player in the bomb plot because he initiated orders for explosive chemicals through Mr. Elsohemy, who was posing as a source for such materials.

Mr. Abdelhaleem argued he was simply conveying messages from Zakaria Amara, 24, who was convicted last week and sentenced to life, the stiffest penalty for a terrorist offence. In various police intercepts of conversations, however, Mr. Elsohemy is heard asking Mr. Abdelhaleem questions to the effect of: "How much ammonium nitrate do you want?"

Mr. Abdelhaleem said he believed it was understood that "you" referred to Amara. In retrospect, he said, it was a clear attempt by Mr. Elsohemy-- who was wearing a wire -- to implicate Mr. Abdelhaleem as a leader.

"It was one of his tricks to try to implicate me," said Mr. Abdelhaleem, who has testified Mr. Elsohemy harboured a grudge for a past fight between their families. "It was so obvious."

Mr. Elsohemy testified that Mr. Abdelhaleem initially balked at the plan after hearing Mr. Amara lay it out, saying it was not correct under Islam. But he became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the stock exchange, Mr. Elsohemy said.

The informant testified Mr. 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.

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

However, in a subsequent interview, Tariq Abdelhaleem, Shareef’s father, denied this.

A civil engineer by training and a lecturer at the Dar Al-Arqam Islamic Centre in Mississauga, Ont., the 67-year-old Mr. Abdelhaleem worked, until recently, on a contract basis for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the Crown corporation that oversees the country’s nuclear reactors. He called Mr. Elsohemy a liar.

“I have never said such a thing…what do you expect him to say!” he wrote. “I have been consistent throughout my life, in my writings and speeches, that it is completely un-Islamic to kill any person in Canada or anywhere else.” He added: “This is [Elsohemy’s] day in court. We will have ours.”

After his son was taken into custody, Mr. Abdelhaleem launched , a website that “appeals to the Canadian intellect and conscience” to learn the truth about his son and the rest of the “Toronto 18.”

The Toronto 18 terrorism plot involved detonating powerful truck bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS regional office in downtown Toronto and a military base between Toronto and Ottawa. The scheme was foiled in June 2006 after an extensive police investigation.

Calling Mr. Abdelhaleem “the antithesis of a good witness”, the judge dismissed his claim of entrapment because “there is virtually no evidence” that Mr. Abdelhaleem was entrapped by the police.

Mr. Abdelhaleem's ramblings were almost impossible to follow in court, the judge said, adding that even when he reviewed the transcripts later, Mr. Addelhaleem's testimony was difficult to decipher and not “logically persuasive.”

Mr. Abdelhaleem's lawyer, William Naylor, said his client was in jail for 3 ½ years before he got to speak to anyone in public, “So you don't have a lot of social graces after being in administrative detention for 3 ½ years.”

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