'Terrorism is BS,' Toronto 18 member tells court
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 Toronto 18 member found guilty of terrorism offences told court Wednesday that terrorism is "BS," because it's not right to kill civilians to advance a political agenda.
Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, dressed in a black collared shirt with the top few buttons undone and sleeves rolled up, took the stand at his trial and casually discussed his large salary, his cocaine use and his musings on terrorism.
Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion, but not convicted as the defence argues an entrapment motion.
His lawyer, William Naylor, asked Abdelhaleem to tell the court how he defines jihad versus terrorism.
While jihad is "armed conflict with armed men," terrorism is a "guy who is blind to all these rules -- a guy who is pissed off and willing to do anything," Abdelhaleem said. "It's not right."
Everyone knew his position on the subject, including Zakaria Amara, who one night in April laid out a plot to bomb three targets, Abdelhaleem said. Amara was sentenced to life this month for his role in the terror plot.
Abdelhaleen told the court that his position was to denounce "any act of violence toward a certain political means."
"This act of violence would have absolutely no rules, if civilians were all OK to get killed, they were collateral damage," he said.
"This is all BS."
Abdelhaleem said the Crown might doubt his position, but, "I still think... you can't do that. You just can't do that."
Shaher Elsohemy, a former friend of Abdelhaleem who became a police agent to infiltrate the Toronto 18, testified that after Amara laid out his plan to bomb the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base Abdelhaleem objected on moral grounds.
But, Elsohemy testified, Abdelhaleem then became excited at the prospect of profiting financially from an attack on the stock exchange.
However, Abdelhaleem told court Wednesday that it was Elsohemy who talked of monetary gain.
"He was excited in two ways: doing something meaningful, I guess, doing something for God, and the prospect that he wouldn't have to drive" an old, broken down car anymore, Abdelhaleem said.
"We were talking about making money off the stock market. He was very excited about that."
Abdelhaleem portrayed himself as being on the outside of discussions between Amara and Elsohemy about bombs and jihad before the night Amara revealed his plot.
It was "weird," Abdelhaleem said. "Who sits down and talks about fertilizer?"
Abdelhaleem testified he didn't even have any money at that time to invest in a scheme to profit from an attack on the stock market.
The software developer who drove a blue convertible BMW also told the court he was a "little behind" on his taxes because he "didn't like paying them," but the last year he filed them he made $357,000.
He mostly spent his money on vacations and clothing, as well as "drinking, drugs (and) women," Abdelhaleem said.
Abdelhaleem readily admitted he was high on cocaine one night when a security guard told him the windshield of his BMW had been broken. Abdelhaleem believed one of Elsohemy's brothers was responsible, and their ensuing arguments led to the breakdown of their friendship.
His anger over the incident was not about money, Abdelhaleem said, as the eventual cost of the repair -- $265 -- was less than one night's worth of cocaine.
"I was just upset," he said. "For no reason I've got to go stand in a line somewhere, sit in a waiting room and wait for the thing to get fixed (and) God knows if they have the sizes."