There was a great deal of activity this week in the case of the "Toronto 18" - a terror cell broken up in 2006, which conspired to attack public buildings and murder Canadian politicians.
Zakaria Amara, 24, the leader of the group - which planned to detonate truck bombs outside the Toronto offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base - was sentenced to life in prison on Monday. He will be eligible for parole in 2016 - 10 years from the day of his arrest.
Amara confessed to masterminding the plot to detonate fertilizer bombs in U-Haul vans. He asked an undercover informant to help him purchase ammonium nitrate, the same bomb used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people.
Amara's roles in the conspiracy included researching how to build a remote-controlled detonator and becoming the leader of a terrorist training camp. To kill the maximum number of people, he planned to put metal chips inside the bombs and detonate them at times when the target areas were crowded.
The goal of the attacks was to put pressure on the government to withdraw Canadian troops from Afghanistan.
Another conspirator, Saad Gaya, 22, was sentenced on Monday to 12 years in prison. ABC News reported that because "Gaya will receive two-for-one credit based on the years he served since his arrest in 2006, and extra credit for 14 months spent in solitary confinement, he has less than another four and a half years in prison."
Under Canadian parole standards, Gaya will be eligible for parole after serving 18 months – one- third of his remaining sentence.
On Wednesday, another member of the "Toronto 18" pled guilty to charges of participating in the terrorist group. Amin Mohamed Durrani took part in a plot to establish an armed, Al-Qaeda-type terror cell in Toronto "and then to create some sort of mayhem that would scare the Canadian public into withdrawing troops from Afghanistan," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Security Correspondent Bill Gillespie reported Wednesday.
The plot also involved storming Parliament Hill in Ottawa and beheading politicians, among them Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Durrani, 23, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his crimes. Taking into account the time he has already spent in custody, he became eligible for release on Thursday – receiving in effect a one-day sentence.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Harper said he understands why Canadians would be shocked at the light sentence given Durrani. He explained that is why Canadian lawmakers recently voted to change the "two for one" credit from the nation's Criminal Code which gives criminals extra credit for time served prior to conviction.
Also on Thursday, another conspirator, Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, of Mississauga, was convicted in connection with the terror plot. His attorney presented no evidence on the issue of guilt or innocence. On Monday, defense counsel is expected to present arguments that Abdelhaleem was "entrapped."
Testimony during last year's trial of some of the conspirators showed that they were indoctrinated by listening to Al Qaeda-linked Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki. As reported previously by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Al-Awlaki has been connected to the case of the U.S. Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.
Macleans.Ca magazine has just published a must-read profile of Shaher Elsohemy, the informant who enabled the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to infiltrate the "Toronto 18." Read it here.
Four other individuals accused of participating in the "Toronto 18" plot are scheduled for trial in March.