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Toronto G20 activist sentenced to prison for more than a year

Alex Hundert, one of 17 people accused of conspiracy to cause mayhem for last year's G20 summit, stands outside during a break in the preliminary hearings at the provincial courthouse in Etobicoke, Ont., on September 12, 2011.

Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

A high-profile Ontario activist accused of planning mayhem at the G20 summit two years ago told a court his prosecution was politically-motivated as he was sent to jail for more than a year Tuesday.

In a packed overflow courtroom, meanwhile, about 100 supporters cheered and shouted support.

Alex Hundert was the last to be sentenced among six people who pleaded guilty last fall to counselling to commit mischief ahead of the summit. The group was convicted for discussing damaging property during protest planning meetings. Mr. Hundert pleaded guilty to a further charge of counselling people to obstruct the police for giving workshops on how to free people from police custody, a technique called "de-arresting."

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In exchange for the guilty pleas, 11 other co-accused had all their charges dropped.

The date of Mr. Hundert's sentencing – the second anniversary of the G20 – was no coincidence. He says the right to choose his sentencing date was written into the plea deal.

Speaking slowly in a clear voice, Mr. Hundert told court Tuesday that the purpose of the undercover police investigation that ended in the arrest of himself and several other activists was to disrupt their political activities and discourage others from getting involved.

He said he accepted that he had broken the law, but that he had pleaded guilty to ensure others, including one co-accused facing deportation, would have their charges withdrawn.

"[This prosecution says] that just being at a meeting where a crime is discussed is illegal," he said.

His lawyer, John Norris, said his client was a committed activist involved in a variety of community organizations and that the crimes he has been convicted of are only one small part of his activities. Since his conviction, he said Mr. Hundert had been using the time to further his education.

"I am certain he will continue to be involved in causes that make our community a better place," he said.

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Crown attorney Jason Miller, who led the prosecution of Mr. Hundert and his co-accused and delivered speeches at all previous sentencing hearings, declined to do so this time.

Mr. Justice Lloyd Budzinsky, however, had a few choice words for Mr. Hundert, admonishing the 31-year-old for seeking political change outside the rule of law. On several occasions during Mr. Hundert's speech, the judge told him to confine his comments to the task at hand.

Later, he compared the actions of G20 vandals to French Revolutionary Maxime Robespierre, who sought social change through violence.

Mr. Justice Budzinsky said Mr. Hundert's crimes would usually warrant a sentence of two to three years, but should be reduced to 13 and a half months to reflect the time the convicted man spent in pre-trial custody, his subsequent restrictive bail conditions and the fact that he had pleaded guilty.

Mr. Hundert's supporters were barred from the courtroom after disrupting previous proceedings, and instead packed a next-door room with a video link. As he was lead away, they shouted "we love you!" and banged on the wall separating the two rooms.

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