Canada gets tough on terror, hikes jail terms in Toronto plot

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Saturday, December 18, 2010

TORONTO - Toughening Canada’s much criticized lenient stand on terrorism Friday, a court of appeal here raised sentences of terrorists jailed in the famous Toronto-18 plot. The Al-Qaeda-inspired Toronto-18 terror plot was uncovered with the arrest of 18 Muslims, mostly of Pakistani origin, in June 2006.

The plotters had planned to storm the Canadian parliament, take Prime Minister Stephen Harper hostage and behead him.

They had also planned to use blow up the Toronto Stock Exchange, military installations and offices of the Canadian spy agency to revenge Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

To carry out the plot, they had undergone training in firearms at a rural camp far away from Toronto in December 2005.

The plot was unearthed when a mole - paid more than $4 million by the police to act as a coconspirator - blew the whistle on it.

Over the past two years, many of the accused have been given lenient jail sentences.

Acting on the government’s appeal against these lenient sentences for the three convicted terrorists, Ontario’s provincial Court of Appeal here Friday increased their jail terms.

In the case of Mohammad Momin Khawaja, the first person convicted under the new terror law, the court raised the 10-year jail term to life imprisonment.

“Terrorism must not be allowed to take root in Canada. When it is detected, it must be dealt with in the severest of terms,” the judgment said.

The court also raised jail terms of two other terrorists - Saad Gaya and Saad Khalid - from 12 years and 14 years to 18 years and 20 years.

Blasting the lower court judge for leniency towards the two terrorists, the appeal court said, “In imposing the sentence he did, the sentencing judge under-emphasized the enormity of the respondent’s crime and over-emphasized his rehabilitative prospects.”

The appeal court also threw out the review petition of plot ringleader Zakaria Amara, who was given life term in January, saying that if his plot had succeeded it would have led to “indiscriminate killing of innocent people on a potentially massive scale. Indeed, in the appellant’s case, a strong argument can be made that widespread carnage was precisely the outcome that he intended.”

Because of its lax laws, Canada has often come under criticism from the US where many people still believe that the 9/11 hijackers came from Canada.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at

Filed under: Terrorism

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