Police 'dragged in' Toronto 18 defendant: lawyer
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.
BRAMPTON, Ont. - A man found guilty of terrorism offences was "dragged in" to the Toronto 18 bomb plot by a former friend seeking revenge through his work as a police agent, court heard Monday, though the man's lawyer said he didn't have any "concrete" evidence to that end.
Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, was found guilty of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion, however no conviction was entered because his defence brought a motion seeking a stay on the basis of entrapment.
In his closing submissions Monday, William Naylor said police agent Shaher Elsohemy was acting out of vengeance in getting his former friend Abdelhaleem involved in the plot. The two had a rocky history of conflict between their families and court heard Elsohemy's CSIS handler wrote in a report that Elsohemy "does not forget an enemy easily."
"The entrapment of Abdelhaleem was almost guaranteed given the background between the two of them," Naylor said.
"There was a resentment and the resentment continued right up until the evidence in this trial."
The Crown contends Abdelhaleem was a willing and active participant in the plot to detonate massive bombs at the Toronto offices of Canada's spy agency, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base. Abdelhaleem and 17 others were arrested in the summer of 2006.
"Mr. Abdelhaleem decided to participate in this plot because he was upset with events overseas," said Crown attorney Croft Michaelson.
"He chose to participate in the commission of this crime and nothing that was said or done by the agent induced him or would have induced the average person in the position of Mr. Abdelhaleem to commit the crime."
As the judge noted, the test for entrapment is a high one. The defence must prove that police created a crime that otherwise wouldn't have occurred or that they induced the commission of a crime.
"There's nothing concrete, your honour... in the evidence," Naylor said.
"I am submitting to this court that it was subtle and my client didn't know what happened to him, but he was getting dragged in... not screaming and kicking, but in the circumstances he was dragged in."
When Abdelhaleem took the stand he admitted that he was involved with the so-called Toronto 18 terror group, but portrayed himself as someone who inserted himself in the bomb plot in a valiant effort to mitigate damage and protect against casualties.
Naylor said the authorities were really after Zakaria Amara -- who was sentenced to life last month -- and suggested it was either "recklessness" or "wilful blindness" that they couldn't see that Abdelhaleem, an outsider, was getting roped into the plot.
The Crown said it was Amara, and not the police, who initiated the bomb plot. Further, the evidence doesn't suggest Elsohemy was acting on any sort of vendetta against Abdelhaleem because he reported to the authorities Abdelhaleem's initial opposition to the plot.
"It's clear that Mr. Abdelhaleem was driving the bomb plot forward," Michaelson said.
"He was an active participant in the bomb plot on his own initiative. It can't be said that there was any inducement...that instigated the commission of the offence."