A court sketch shows Asad Ansari.
Photograph by: Alex Tavshunsky, For Canwest News Service
BRAMPTON, Ont. — A Superior Court judge has meted out the lightest sentence to date among the adults convicted in the Toronto 18 terrorism plot.
Asad Ansari, 25, became a free man Monday after receiving six years and five months — the equivalent of time served — for his participation in the group, which plotted devastating attacks in Toronto and Ottawa. The offence carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.
“While Mr. Ansari’s involvement in the offence was serious, it is not at the most serious end of the scale,” Justice Fletcher Dawson asserted in his 12-page ruling.
Ansari has been out on strict house-arrest bail for more than a year awaiting trial and sentencing. Taken on a two-for-one basis, his sentence is equivalent to the almost three years and three months he spent in pretrial custody. Dawson, who also handed Ansari three years of probation, said it would be an “unjust hardship” to return him to prison at this juncture.
Ansari’s sentence is the lightest among the adults convicted in the Toronto 18 plot, though one youth received less time, having been released on time served more than a year ago.
After a lengthy joint trial with another co-accused, Ansari was convicted in June of participating in the Toronto 18, which planned to storm Parliament and detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto. Authorities dismantled the homegrown terror cell in June 2006.
In his ruling, Dawson pointed out Ansari was not charged in the bomb plot, and said his involvement in a terrorist training camp in the winter of 2005 was “more limited” than that of other group members.
During that camp, the court has heard, participants wore camouflage clothing and engaged in paramilitary drills.
“I am satisfied that once (Ansari) was there, the nature of the camp would have been apparent to him,” Dawson said, rejecting testimony from Ansari, who said he was unaware of any terrorist implications.
“The jury obviously found that Mr. Ansari’s testimony was not credible,” Dawson said. “I must say I reached the same conclusion.”
The Crown has painted Ansari as the group’s technical expert, one who helped edit video footage of the training camp and cleared malicious software from ringleader Fahim Ahmad’s computer. Dawson said it was clear Ansari “pledged his computer skills for the benefit of the group.”
Ansari, who strolled out of court Monday with his mother, declined to comment on the ruling. His lawyer, Breese Davies, lauded the judge’s “fit sentence,” but said her client would be appealing his conviction within 30 days.
“He gave an innocent explanation (for his involvement in the group) and he maintains that position,” Davies said. Still, she added: “we are glad that this part is over. He can focus on moving on with his life.”
Upon hearing of the ruling, Public Safety Minster Vic Toews issued a statement highlighting the government’s recent decision to end the practice of granting convicts two-for-one credit for pretrial custody.
“Part of keeping our communities safe is keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, not releasing them into our streets early. . . . Canadians believe this is unacceptable, and our government will continue to put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals,” Toews said.
Ansari is one of the final Toronto 18 members to be sentenced. Ahmad is to be sentenced this month, with Steven Chand and Shareef Abdelhaleem following in November. Seven of the group members were released without charges and seven others have been convicted and sentenced.