Toronto 18 member says he didnt think of his role in plot as terrorism

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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BRAMPTON, Ont. - Terrorism is "BS," a man found guilty of terrorism offences said Wednesday in testifying it never occurred to him that his role as a messenger could implicate him in the Toronto 18 plot to set off three massive bombs.
Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, dressed in a black collared shirt with the top few buttons undone and sleeves rolled up, took the stand at his trial and casually discussed his tax evasion, his cocaine use and his musings on terrorism.
Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion, but not convicted as the defence argues an entrapment motion.
During his animated testimony marked by emphatic hand gestures, Abdelhaleem admitted participating in discussions about the plot, making preliminary inquiries about how he could profit financially from it and ordering bomb-making chemicals.
But he said he didn't consider what he was doing to be terrorism and argued that RCMP police informant Shaher Elsohemy played more of an active role than Elsohemy described in his own testimony.
"I didn't think mere words was a crime," Abdelhaleem testified. "I thought doing something, it has to be tangible. I thought my crime was that I didn't report a crime."
"A lot of people would say, `Well why wouldn't you just go to the police?"' he later added. "They're my friends. I'm not a rat, period."
While it may seem as though he was going along with the plot, he was trying to mitigate damage and deaths every step of the way, suggesting locations away from areas people frequent and smaller bombs, Abdelhaleem said.
And though he is heard on police recordings ordering bomb-making chemicals, he was only acting as an intermediary, Abdelhaleem said.
Elsohemy has testified that he did not do anything to push Abdelhaleem toward any criminal activity, but Abdelhaleem vigorously objected, saying Elsohemy was more involved than that and asked him to rent a house in which to store bomb-making materials.
"He tried to get me to do things, but I didn't do them," Abdelhaleem said, his voice rising as he angrily stabbed the air with his index finger.
Abdelhaleem characterized his role in the plot to set off three one-tonne bombs at the CSIS offices in Toronto, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base as a messenger between Elsohemy and Zakaria Amara, who was sentenced to life earlier this month.
His lawyer, William Naylor, asked Abdelhaleem to tell the court how he defines terrorism.
"Terrorism is a guy who is blind to all these rules - a guy who is pissed off and willing to do anything," Abdelhaleem said. "It's not right."
Everyone - including Amara - knew his position on the subject, Abdelhaleem said, which was denouncing "any act of violence toward a certain political means."
"This act of violence would have absolutely no rules, if civilians were all OK to get killed, they were collateral damage - this is all BS," he said.
Abdelhaleem said the Crown might doubt his position, but, "I still think... you can't do that. You just can't do that."
Elsohemy, a former friend of Abdelhaleem who became a police agent to infiltrate the Toronto 18, testified that after Amara laid out his plan Abdelhaleem objected on moral grounds.
But, Elsohemy testified, Abdelhaleem then became excited at the prospect of profiting financially from an attack on the stock exchange.
However, Abdelhaleem told court Wednesday that it was Elsohemy who talked of monetary gain.
"He was excited in two ways: doing something meaningful, I guess, doing something for God, and the prospect that he wouldn't have to drive a (cheap) car anymore," Abdelhaleem said.
"We were talking about making money off the stock market. He was very excited about that."
Abdelhaleem portrayed himself as being on the outside of discussions between Amara and Elsohemy about bombs and jihad before the night Amara revealed his plot.
It was "weird," Abdelhaleem said. "Who sits down and talks about fertilizer?"
Abdelhaleem testified he didn't even have any money at that time to invest in a scheme to profit from an attack on the stock market.
The software developer who drove a blue convertible BMW also told the court he was a "little behind" on his taxes because he "didn't like paying them," but the last year he filed them he made $357,000.
He mostly spent his money on vacations and clothing, as well as "drinking, drugs (and) women," Abdelhaleem said.
Abdelhaleem readily admitted he was high on cocaine one night when a security guard told him the windshield of his BMW had been broken. Abdelhaleem believed one of Elsohemy's brothers was responsible, and their ensuing arguments led to the breakdown of their friendship.
His anger over the incident was not about money, Abdelhaleem said, as the eventual cost of the repair - $265 - was less than one night's worth of cocaine.
"I was just upset," he said. "For no reason I've got to go stand in a line somewhere, sit in a waiting room and wait for the thing to get fixed (and) God knows if they have the sizes."

Organizations: Toronto 18, RCMP, CSIS Toronto Stock Exchange BMW

Geographic location: BRAMPTON, Toronto, Ontario

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