MONTREAL (Reuters) - A 16-year-old boy, the youngest on trial for terrorism offenses in Canada, has been found guilty by a Quebec youth court judge on Thursday of committing a robbery in association with a terrorist organization and planning to leave Canada to join a jihadist group abroad.
The sullen teen, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, admitted to robbing a convenience store in 2014 when he was 15, but pleaded not guilty to trying to use the stolen money to travel to Syria.
He sat impassively in the prisoner’s box during the two hours it took Judge Dominique Wilhelmy to read her verdict, reacting only by bowing his head when she referred to his parent’s testimony, a key element in the case.
The boy’s father, who emigrated from Algeria with his family in 2003, reported his own son to police in October 2014 after discovering a bag hidden behind their home containing a mask, knife and cash. The youth had previously tried to use his father’s credit card to buy a one-way airline ticket to Syria. He told his parents he wanted to fight the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Montrealer is the first person in Canada to be convicted of trying to leave the country to join a jihadist group, an act made illegal by tough anti-terrorism legislation passed by the federal government in 2013, the prosecutor said after the hearing.
“This sad story is one where a young man was invaded by the messages of violence, of vengeance and of war by the Islamic State,” Wilhelmy said. “In alerting the authorities, his parents probably saved his life.”
Montreal police alerted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
when they found he had become radicalized.
An examination of his computer showed that the teen had looked extensively at ISIS propaganda.
His mother gave police a phone number she had found in his pants which later was linked to Martin Couture-Rouleau, a Muslim convert who was fatally shot by police after killing one Canadian soldier and injuring another in October 2014 near Montreal.
Crown prosecutor Marie-Eve Moore said recommendations for sentencing will be made after the teen undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.
“We have to promote his rehabilitation, his reintegration into society, while continuing to protect society,” she said.
Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Jeffrey Benkoe and Phil Berlowitz