4 Min Read
OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian man who admired Osama Bin Laden and who was the first to be charged under a tough new anti-terror law was found guilty on Wednesday in a trial linked to a plot to carry out bomb attacks in Britain.
Judge Douglas Rutherford of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that 29-year-old software engineer Momin Khawaja had been involved with a British terrorist group, which he knew was involved in terrorist activity.
Rutherford convicted him of five of seven terrorism offenses, as well as two separate criminal offenses of having worked on a device to activate a bomb detonator and possessing an explosive substance. Khawaja was tried without a jury.
"I found you guilty as charged," Rutherford told an impassive Khawaja, who stood between two police officers behind a bulletproof glass shield. He was wearing leg shackles and a light suit and had a tight-clipped beard.
British police had named Khawaja as co-conspirator in the case of five men who were jailed for life last year for a thwarted plan to bomb nightclubs, trains and a shopping center in Britain.
But Rutherford acquitted Khawaja of two charges that he knew explosives and the remote detonating device -- dubbed the "hi-fi digimonster" -- would be used in the planned attacks in Britain.
The judge agreed with the defense's assertion that it was possible Khawaja thought his devices would be used in Afghanistan or Iraq.
"He was acquitted of the London bombing ... It's terrific. It was what we set out to do," an upbeat defense lawyer Lawrence Greenspon told reporters, saying the other five charges were "far less serious."
Khawaja was found guilty of working with, helping and financing the British group. He pleaded not guilty on all counts. He has been held in prison in Ottawa since 2004.
He will be sentenced on November 18 and faces the possibility of life in prison.
Although Rutherford wrote that he had no doubt that "Momin Khawaja was knowingly participating in and supporting a terrorist group," Khawaja's father Mahboob said the verdict had cleared his son's name.
"For the last 4-1/2 years it has been really terrible for our son and ourselves and we are very pleased ... that the truth has come out that Momin is not a terrorist," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Greenspon said Khawaja was relieved by the acquittals on the first two charges but declined to say whether he would appeal. The prosecution said it was glad Khawaja had been found guilty of terrorist activity.
"I think it's clear he was involved in terrorism," the prosecutor, David McKercher, told reporters.
The 4-1/2 years that Khawaja has already served in prison will count as nine years when it comes time for sentencing.
In his verdict, Rutherford recounted an excerpt from an email Khawaja had written about the al Qaeda leader in 2003: "Shaykh Usama bin laden is like the most beloved person to me in the ... whole world, after Allah."
The new anti-terror law -- rushed through Parliament in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the United States -- gives the government broad powers to keep intelligence information secret on national security grounds.
Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty