Informant's motives questioned at 'Toronto 18' trial
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.
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 25, 2010 8:09PM EST
TORONTO - An informant who testified against a former friend found guilty of terrorism offences was excited at the prospect of working as a police agent because it might be "like the movies," court heard Monday.
Shaher Elsohemy was the only witness in the first part of Shareef Abdelhaleem's trial, at which Abdelhaleem was found guilty of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets as part of the Toronto 18 terrorist group.
Though Abdelhaleem was found guilty he was not convicted, as the defence has brought forward a motion seeking to stay the case on the basis of entrapment. Court began hearing evidence in the entrapment motion Monday as defence lawyer William Naylor questioned Elsohemy's handler at CSIS.
Elsohemy had been in contact with CSIS for several months about Abdelhaleem -- and Zakaria Amara, who was sentenced to life in the plot -- before becoming an RCMP agent given a compensation package worth up to nearly $4 million.
Elsohemy's CSIS contact had written in a report that something more than just principles was motivating Elsohemy to give information about Abdelhaleem to Canada's spy agency, court heard.
One of his main motivations was the desire to do "exciting and meaningful work," the CSIS contact wrote in a report, adding that Elsohemy had applied several years prior for a position at CSIS.
Elsohemy thought it might be "like the movies," the contact wrote.
His fractured relationship with Abdelhaleem also did not escape the CSIS contact's notice.
"(Elsohemy) does not forget an enemy easily," the contact wrote in his report.
"It appears that he does not brush old contacts or unresolved disputes under the carpet," the contact testified in court after Naylor asked for elaboration.
Court has previously heard Elsohemy and Abdelhaleem were friends until Abdelhaleem went to police after he suspected Elsohemy's brother of shattering the windshield of his BMW.
Elsohemy testified two weeks ago that Abdelhaleem was "aggressive" about the matter and that Elsohemy ended the friendship because Abdelhaleem was making increasing threats about the situation.
Elsohemy has testified that in exposing the plans of the failed terror attack he wasn't motivated by the money, but by a desire to be a moral, responsible Canadian citizen.
The CSIS contact wrote in a report that Elsohemy also appeared to be motivated by his moral objection to terrorism but also money, which he "readily and gratefully accepted."
Naylor spent much time discussing a reference in the contact's notes that Elsohemy had fabricated a claim of mental distress against Air Canada, where he was on disability leave from as a flight attendant, and that he hoped to get a big disability payout.
When asked about the veracity of this statement, the contact replied that it wasn't important to him for security purposes, so he wouldn't have put much emphasis on the precise details of that situation in his report.
Court has previously heard that Elsohemy and Abdelhaleem began talking again after Abdelhaleem sent Elsohemy an instant message saying he was thinking about going "back home" -- Abdelhaleem was born in Egypt -- to do his "ultimate duty."
Shortly thereafter was when Elsohemy began talking to CSIS.
But Elsohemy told his CSIS contact that the stress of knowing about a terrorist plot and associating again with Abdelhaleem, "who he doesn't really like" was causing him not to be able to concentrate at work. Elsohemy received $3,000 in compensation from CSIS.
Court also heard that Elsohemy reported to the CSIS contact that Abdelhaleem refused to store explosives at his house and that he was at first opposed to bombing the Parliament buildings, saying he feared it "would do more harm than good for Muslims."
Elsohemy testified earlier that Abdelhaleem objected to the plot when it was revealed to them by Amara, but that Abdelhaleem became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The CSIS contact's report from March 23, 2006 quotes Elsohemy as saying he thought Abdelhaleem was "too addicted to creature comforts" to suffer or die for a cause, as he interpreted Abdelhaleem's "ultimate duty" comment to mean.
Abdelhaleem and 17 others were charged in June 2006 with terrorism offences. A youth was previously found guilty, five men have pleaded guilty, seven have had their charges dropped or stayed and four others are set to go on trial in March.