BRAMPTON, Ont — The Toronto-area man who took part in a conspiracy to blow up prominent landmarks in the city’s downtown told court Tuesday he made “a huge mistake” as his lawyer asked for a two-year prison term for his client.
Saad Khalid, 23, told a Brampton, Ont., courtroom that he accepted responsibility for his role in the domestic terror plot to detonate bombs outside the Toronto Stock Exchange and CSIS headquarters in 2006.
Dressed in a black suit and pinstriped white shirt, and sporting the faint beginnings of a beard, Khalid said from the prisoner’s box that he wanted people to know his true motives: his “disagreement” with Canada’s foreign policy, specifically the country’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“I was not motivated by a hate for Canada, Canadians, democracy, or Canadian values of freedom, civil liberties, and women’s rights,” Khalid read from a prepared speech.
“I realize that this does not justify my actions in any way. But it is important to have my motive known so people understand that I am not a lunatic who is hell-bent on the destruction of Western Civilization.”
Khalid was arrested in June 2006 while unloading what he and his fellow alleged conspirators believed was at least two tonnes of ammonium nitrate, according to an uncontested statement of facts.
One of the members of the so-called Toronto 18, Khalid pleaded guilty in May to one count of participating in a terror plot with the intention of causing an explosion.
Seven others have since had their charges dropped. The identities of the other members of the small terror cell Khalid belonged to are protected by a publication ban.
Throughout Khalid’s sentencing hearing, his lawyer Russell Silverstein has depicted his client as a bit player in the plot who was just doing what he was told and was never a ringleader.
The three weeks after Khalid’s arrest were “horrific,” he alleged.
Once he was locked up, Khalid was allegedly routinely strip-searched, woken up by guards every 20 minutes as they checked his cell, and kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, said Silverstein.
The lawyer argued those 21 days of “pure hell,” combined with the 39 months Khalid has already spent in pre-trial custody, would allow Justice Bruce Durno to knock eight years off of a proposed 10-year penitentiary sentence, leaving Khalid to spend the next two years behind bars.
Silverstein suggested to Durno that were he to meet Khalid on the street without knowing the nature of his crime, the judge would be very impressed.
“You would say to yourself, ’This is a remarkable, ideal member of our community,”’ Silverstein said.
With more than a dozen of his friends and family behind him, Khalid told court how he has been studying Islam “more closely than ever before” and now disavows the use of violence.
He acknowledged he still holds strong political views, adding he wanted to work with other Muslim youth upon his release to help them express their views peacefully.