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The Globe and Mail

Member of Toronto 18 terror group handed life sentence

A man described as a co-ordinator of a terrorist plot to detonate a series of truck bombs was given the maximum sentence Friday, though he will be eligible to apply for parole in five years.

Shareef Abdelhaleem, 35, was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 10 years - the harshest penalty under Canada's anti-terror laws.

Mr. Abdelhaleem, who was convicted last year of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion, received the same sentence as the group's ringleader, Zakaria Amara.

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The former software engineer has been in custody since the summer of 2006, when he and 17 others were arrested in a plot to bomb the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an eastern Ontario military base.

Mr. Abdelhaleem's period of parole ineligibility starts from the time of his arrest, leaving him able to apply to be released from prison as early as 2016.

Defence lawyer William Naylor said he expects Mr. Abdelhaleem will appeal.

Mr. Abdelhaleem was motivated by the thought of getting rich after the attacks wreaked havoc on the stock market, but also had a fantasy of being a hero in the Islamic world, said judge Fletcher Dawson.

"Mr. Abdelhaleem exhibits no genuine remorse or insight into his behaviour and has so far not accepted responsibility for his dangerous actions," Judge Dawson said.

The plot, if carried out during the morning rush hour, would have killed hundreds of people and would have been "a massive blow" physically and psychologically to the country, the judge said.

In a long, rambling statement to the court that Judge Dawson described as a "lengthy political diatribe," Mr. Abdelhaleem said he did not want to be labelled a terrorist and insisted he not be punished more harshly because he is a Muslim.

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He insisted he was being unfairly treated by the justice system and suggested his extreme political views on the Middle East have been backed up by massive protests that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He also insisted he had remorse.

"I am not denying what I did was wrong," he said. "I am sorry."

Mr. Abdelhaleem was the last member of the so-called Toronto 18 terror group to be sentenced. Charges were dropped or stayed against seven people while 11 others were sent to prison.

At his trial, Mr. Abdelhaleem admitted he was involved with the 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.

Mr. Abdelhaleem had tried to argue he was entrapped by a friend who was working as a police agent in the plot. The judge his evidence fell far short of the test for entrapment, instead finding Mr. Abdelhaleem acted as a "co-ordinator" in the bomb plot.

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