From the Toronto Star
Sep 03, 2009 05:46 PM
Brampton – A Mississauga man who confessed to being part of a homegrown terror plot aimed at blowing up buildings in downtown Toronto was sentenced today to 14 years, with credit given for pre-trial custody he was ordered to serve an additional seven years behind bars.
Saad Khalid, 23, showed little emotion as Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno read his decision this afternoon in a Brampton court but his family appeared relieved.
The judge also ruled it will be up to the parole board as to when he is eligible for parole. His first opportunity for parole will come up in 28 months.
He was ordered to submit a DNA sample and was given a lifetime weapons prohibition.
Khalid, who has spent just over three years in custody, said he had been motivated by Western policies and Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan.
The judge said he wanted to send a strong message with his sentencing.
"Canadian society relies on ballots and not bullets or bombs to change policy," said the judge.
Durno said he recognized that the plot would have had a "devastating impact on Canada," but that he also took into consideration Khalid’s remorse.
The court was filled with Khalid’s family and friends, as well as relatives of his co-accused, likely wondering how the decision will impact their loved ones.
Also present in the standing-room only courtroom, which was guarded by police, were the lead investigators of the case, as well as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Khalid’s guilty plea in May was the first time a member of the so-called Toronto 18 admitted the existence of a bomb plot targeting the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Front Street offices of Canada’s spy agency and a military base near Highway 401.
Khalid’s sentencing will likely influence some of his co-accused, who are also considering guilty pleas. A publication ban prevents identifying his co-accused.
Details of the deadly attack, which was to have dwarfed London’s 2005 subway bombings, were shared with undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy in the months leading up to the mass arrests on June 2, 2006.
The alleged masterminds of the "Battle of Toronto," as it was called, used Elsohemy to obtain the explosive chemicals needed to pack U-Haul vans with fertilizer explosives, according to a statement of uncontested facts.
The arrests of 14 adults and four youths came on the day that police set up a sting operation involving the delivery of three tones of ammonium nitrate.
Khalid was not the alleged ringleader, but he played a role in the scheme. The University of Toronto student arranged for the rental of warehouse space to store the fertilizer and was responsible for unloading the delivery truck when it arrived.
A video played in court showed Khalid and a co-accused unloading a truck and carrying bags labelled "ammonium nitrate" into the warehouse. The pair donned T-shirts with the words "Student Farmers" to avoid suspicion.
Khalid pleaded guilty to intending to cause an explosion that would likely cause serious bodily harm, death or damage to property.
Defence lawyer Russell Silverstein suggested Khalid be given a 10-year sentence and extra credit for time served, including 15 months in solitary. He proposed that his client spend an additional two years behind bars.
However, Crown Prosecutor Croft Michaelson argued a more appropriate sentence was in the range of 18 to 20 years, with eligibility for parole after serving half. He suggested that with credit for time served, Khalid spend, at least, an additional 12 and a half years incarcerated.
During his sentencing hearing, Khalid told the court that he regretted his role in "this despicable crime."
"I was not motivated by a hate for Canada, Canadians, democracy or Canadian values," said Khalid, reading from a prepared statement. "I was instead motivated by my disagreement on the issue of Canadian foreign policy, specifically Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan."
Central to the Crown’s case against the group are two alleged conspiracies: that in December 2005 some members attended a terrorist training camp, and that some were involved in the bomb plot.
According to court documents, Khalid also attended the 12-day camp, held in Washago, Ont. While there he participated in activities such as marching, paintball games, running an obstacle course and shooting an air rifle. He was also present when the alleged ringleader gave a speech telling attendees it was their mission to defeat Rome, a reference to the United States.
The two alleged ringleaders of the group had a falling out in March 2006, which is around the time that the bomb plot took form.