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'Toronto 18' defendant says he tried to defuse plot
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 member of the so-called Toronto 18 found guilty of terrorism offences said Thursday if he ever learns of another terrorist plot he will sit back and let it happen.
Shareef Abdelhaleem admitted in court 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.
During a sometimes tense cross-examination, Abdelhaleem suggested his considerations about potentially sabotaging the plot to set off massive bombs outside the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto offices of CSIS and an Ontario military base were not worth the trouble.
"I tried my best to reduce everything," he said in an outburst toward the end of the day.
"Next time I hear someone trying to blow something up I'm just going to walk away and I'm going to walk into a police station and say, 'Well, I knew all about this and did absolutely nothing to stop it and I'm going to contact the families of the people who died."
Abdelhaleem told the court he was associating with Zakaria Amara - who was sentenced to life earlier this month - to learn the details of the planned explosions in case he wanted to step in and stop them. Abdelhaleem testified he voiced objections over a plan to put metal shards in the bombs to increase the casualties.
"If I heard any of that stupidness about putting shards (in), I didn't know what I was going to do," he testified in often rambling and animated testimony.
"I was going to sabotage it somehow."
Abdelhaleem, 34, was found guilty last week of terrorism offences, but a conviction wasn't entered as the defence is arguing an entrapment motion.
The Crown's only witness was Shaher Elsohemy, a friend of Abdelhaleem who was acting as a police agent.
Abdelhaleem said he didn't want Amara and Elsohemy to discuss the plot without him because he didn't want his friend to be photographed by police associating with Amara. Also, if they met without him he wouldn't be privy to all the details, Abdelhaleem added.
"There is no way that a sane man on this planet would tell someone, 'Excuse me, why don't you go commit the crime and gee, let me get photographed so buddy I'll go to jail for you,"' Abdelhaleem told court.
"Either I'm from another planet where social laws and human psyche doesn't apply, or I wanted something."
He and 17 others who would come to be known as the Toronto 18 were arrested in the summer of 2006 and charged with terrorism offences. Several people, including Abdelhaleem, were charged in a plot to bomb military, intelligence and financial targets.
Crown attorney Croft Michaelson cross-examined Abdelhaleem and in sometimes tense exchanges he suggested Abdelhaleem took a great deal of initiative in furthering the plot.
"You can suggest it all you want, day and night," Abdelhaleem said. "Raising your voice... doesn't make it right either."
Michaelson replied, "I'm just trying to compete with you, sir."
Abdelhaleem maintains he was an "outsider" in the plot who was just delivering messages back and forth between Amara and Elsohemy, but that he tried to stay involved so he could create opportunities for sabotage, he said.
In discussing the delivery of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to be used in the bombs Abdelhaleem said he thought upon delivery the bags from the "chemical factory" should be emptied into garbage bags. That way he would have easier access to it in case he should want to interfere, he said.
But even though he didn't think his "mere words" could implicate him in the plot, Abdelhaleem was still paranoid about getting caught, court heard.
He intensely questioned Elsohemy about the man who was to deliver the chemicals. He also established a password for entry into the warehouse where they would store the chemicals and he suggested putting wax over the door so they could tell if anyone had entered - an idea he got from James Bond movies, Abdelhaleem testified.
Abdelhaleem also addressed previous testimony from Elsohemy that Abdelhaleem had asked his father - who ran an Islamic school - for a fatwa, or religious ruling, on a terrorist attack in Canada.
Elsohemy testified that Abdelhaleem told him his father had decreed such action would be "acceptable," and that "if civilians happen to be there then that is their destiny."
But Abdelhaleem said that while Elsohemy had been asking him to obtain a fatwa from his father, he did not, because he already knew that his father's opinion was that "terrorism is not religiously correct."