“Prosecutors pushing for 10-year sentence for Toronto man who tried leave Canada to join ‘brutal’ terrorists,” by Stewart Bell, National Post, June 25, 2014:
A Toronto man convicted of attempting to join the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab should serve no more than four years in prison, his lawyer argued Wednesday, claiming his client had engaged only in “non-violent terrorism.”
But federal prosecutors are seeking the 10-year maximum sentence for Mohamed Hassan Hersi, a 28-year-old former security guard who last month became the first Canadian to be convicted for attempting unsuccessfully to join an overseas terrorist group.
“I don’t know what non-violent terrorism is,” Crown attorney Jim Clark said in response to the defence argument that the sentence should distinguish between violent and non-violent forms of terrorism. “All terrorism is inherently violent.”
The judge reserved her decision until July 24.
A jury found the Somali-Canadian guilty of two terrorism-related counts last month after hearing evidence of his plans to join Al Shabab. He was also convicted of counselling another person to join. The charge stemmed from detailed advice he gave an undercover Toronto police officer playing the role of a prospective recruit.
During sentencing arguments Wednesday, the Crown called Al Shabab a “brutal” terrorist group with a history of targeting civilians, and said Hersi should receive concurrent five-year terms for each count. The prosecution also wants an order declaring him ineligible to apply for parole for five years.
Because those intent on leaving Canada to join foreign terrorist organizations are so difficult for police to detect and investigate, a sentence that packed a “hefty deterrence punch” was warranted in this case, Mr. Clark said.
“People should know that even if they try to join a foreign terrorist group and are unsuccessful, they will be heavily punished for the attempt,” he said. “Ten years is completely appropriate to reflect Mr. Hersi’s overall culpability.”
To prepare for his misadventure, Hersi had quit his job, friended a Canadian Al Shabab member on Facebook and set up an alibi, he said. He was about to board a flight to Cairo when he was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson airport in March 2011.
In addition to taking the undercover officer “under his wing,” Hersi had also tried to ensure that his plans went undetected by authorities so that he might return to Canada to commit attacks, the Crown added. “And that in my submission is a chilling prospect.”
Dressed in a pin-striped suit, Hersi remained a silent observer throughout his day in the prisoner’s box. Even when the judge gave him the opportunity to speak, he declined. “I was advised by my counsel not to say anything,” he said.
His lawyer said Hersi had no prior criminal record and was a “mainstream Muslim in his ideology” who did not subscribe to extremist beliefs. He used drugs and browsed pornography on the Internet, he said. “These are not the kinds of activities that one would expect from an extremist Muslim.”…
Really? On what basis does he say that?