Crown says 'Toronto 18' defendant clearly involved
In this courtroom sketch from Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, Shareef Abdelhaleem is seen on the first day of his trial in an Ontario Court of Justice courthouse in Brampton, Ont.
TORONTO - A Toronto 18 member found guilty in a plot to bomb Canadian targets was a clear participant in the terror plan and not a bystander used by police to reach one of the group's leaders, prosecutors argued Tuesday.
Crown lawyer Croft Michaelson dismissed defence arguments that Shareef Abdelhaleem was often "just a body sitting there" during meetings with ringleader Zakaria Amara and a RCMP agent.
The police, he argued, "had reasonable suspicion that Mr. Abdelhaleem was involved in the bomb plot."
Abdelhaleem's lawyer, William Naylor, has brought a motion to stay the case, arguing his client was entrapped and put in harm's way so the police could get information about the plot.
Abdelhaleem was more or less a "pathway to find out what Amara was doing," Naylor told the court while cross-examining a RCMP officer who handled the police informant.
The informant, Shaher Elsohemy, was a former friend of Abdelhaleem, and Naylor suggested Elsohemy was instructed to get Abdelhaleem and Amara to meet to try to get information about the plot.
"I guess you felt because of their friendship that he'd tell everything he knew to Elsohemy," Naylor said.
The RCMP officer testified that Abdelhaleem discussed the plot at length with Amara and was privy to many of its details, and that was the reason Elsohemy was sent to him.
"Your client was the point of contact and he was involved in the conspiracy," the officer said.
Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets, but the judge did not enter a conviction pending the outcome of the entrapment motion.
On Tuesday, Naylor questioned why Elsohemy was often instructed to contact Abdelhaleem and not simply asked to speak with Amara directly. He also suggested his client was only included in a plan to acquire and deliver the chemicals needed to make bombs because of Elsohemy's involvement in what was essentially, he said, a police-engineered situation.
"Abdelhaleem wasn't looking for any chemicals before he came in contact with Elsohemy," Naylor said.
But the officer repeatedly shot down his suggestions, insisting Abdelhaleem was a clear participant in the plot.
The RCMP-controlled delivery of the chemicals, the officer said, was "just one final investigative step."
Michaelson also argued Abdelhaleem was often the one who requested meetings with Elsohemy and pressed him to talk to an uncle who would supposedly help the group get the chemicals needed to make the bombs.
Abdelhaleem and 17 others were arrested and charged with terrorism offences in 2006 and came to be known as the Toronto 18. 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 began hearing evidence on the entrapment motion Monday with testimony from Elsohemy's handler at CSIS. Elsohemy had been in contact with CSIS for several months about Abdelhaleem as well as Amara -- who was sentenced to life in the plot -- before becoming an RCMP agent given a compensation package worth up to nearly $4 million.
The CSIS contact testified that Elsohemy's decision to give information about Abdelhaleem to the spy agency was in part motivated by the desire to do "exciting and meaningful work," but noted he also had a fractured relationship with Abdelhaleem.
The court has also heard that Abdelhaleem initially balked at the plan after hearing 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 and also sought the advice of his father, Tariq Abdelhaleem.
His father issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, that such action would be acceptable, placating Abdelhaleem's moral objections, Elsohemy testified.
The hearing continues Wednesday.