'Toronto 18' terror plotter gets seven-year term; must serve two more years
By Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press
Fri Oct 2, 7:37 PM
BRAMPTON, Ont. – A man who pleaded guilty to taking part in a homegrown terrorist group was sentenced to seven years Friday for his committed role in a plot to wreak havoc on Canadian targets.
In handing down the sentence, which amounts to two years after time served is factored in, Ontario Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno said terrorism offences “strike at the heart” of Canadian values.
“His moral culpability is high,” Durno said.
“His degree of responsibility is also high because of the duration of his involvement (in the terror group).”
Durno rejected defence calls to free Ali Dirie immediately in light of the time he had already spent behind bars.
Dirie's guilty plea to membership in and helping a terrorist organization makes him one of four of the “Toronto 18” to be convicted. Seven accused still face trial while seven others have seen their charges either stayed or withdrawn.
The Somali-born Dirie, 26, was initially arrested at the Canada-U.S. border in Fort Erie, Ont., in August 2005 when he and an accomplice were caught with loaded weapons and ammunition they had bought in the United States.
He pleaded guilty and served two years for the weapons crime, during which time police linked the firearms offences to the terrorist conspiracy. He was subsequently charged under the terrorism laws in 2006 while still behind bars.
Both Crown and defence called for the seven-year sentence, but differed on how much credit Dirie should receive for time served.
Durno rejected defence calls for an inflated three-for-one credit for the 831 days Dirie served in segregation in various prison facilities following his arrest on the terrorism charges, opting instead for the more standard two-for-one pre-trial credit.
Court had previously heard that Dirie, even after his incarceration for the firearms crimes, tried to procure weapons and travel documents; recruit cellmates to the extremist Islamic cause; and gave advice and encouragement to the alleged co-leader of the group, who has yet to stand trial.
He also assaulted or otherwise abused guards and showed little interest in rehabilitation and prison programs.
“It was his own misconduct (in prison) that contributed in part to his placement in segregation,” said Durno, who called Dirie “an unlikely candidate for parole.”
Durno also ruled Dirie cannot apply for parole for at least another year.
The judge also agreed with defence and Crown submissions that Dirie was effectively getting a nine-year term given that the two years he served for the firearms offences which were part of the terrorist plot.
Durno called that reasonable given the terrorism offence to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum of 10 years.
Outside court, defence lawyer Robert Nuttall said he was satisfied with the result, adding Dirie had matured and now recognized that a violent approach to expressing his opposition to Canada's role in Afghanistan was wrong.
“He realized that the means didn't advance his belief but in fact, if anything, retarded it,” said Nuttall, who called Dirie a “very intelligent” young man.
“He profoundly regrets the means.”
Dirie was among 18 people arrested in a plot to cause bloodshed and panic in Canada, including bombing RCMP headquarters and nuclear-power plants and attacking Parliament, that made international headlines when police swooped down on them in the summer of 2006.
Three of them have pleaded guilty and one was convicted after a trial.
On Monday, Saad Gaya, 21, pleaded guilty to intending to cause an explosion for the benefit of a terrorist group and is to be sentenced next month.
Gaya and Saad Khalid were arrested while unloading bags labelled “ammonium nitrate” from a truck driven by an undercover police officer.
Khalid, 23, pleaded guilty in May and earlier this month was handed a 14-year prison sentence. He was given seven years credit for pre-trial custody and can apply for parole after less than 2 1/2 years.
Last September, a judge found Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, 21, guilty of participating in, and contributing to, a terrorist group.
Although 17 at the time of the offences, he was tried as a youth but received an adult sentence of 2 1/2 years before being released in May in light of his time served before trial.