February 15, 2010 / 7:12 PM / in 8 years

Prosecutors to appeal "Toronto 18" sentence

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian prosecutors said on Monday they will appeal a 12-year prison sentence handed down to Saad Gaya, one of the “Toronto 18” group accused of planning al Qaeda-style bombings of Toronto landmarks in 2006.

The Crown had sought a harsher sentence for Gaya, who pleaded guilty in September to plotting an explosion likely to cause death, the most serious of the charges against the “Toronto 18” group of Muslim extremists.

Members of the group were arrested after trying to buy what they thought was three tons of ammonium nitrate -- the bomb-making ingredient used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing -- from undercover police officers.

Police say Gaya and the other alleged plotters had planned to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CN Tower and other downtown targets in Canada’s largest city.

The charges against members of the group fall under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, passed in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Gaya’s 12-year sentence, handed down in a Brampton, Ontario, court on January 18, includes credit of 7-1/2 years in pretrial custody, about double the time he has served in prison since his arrest in June 2006.

Gaya’s sentence came on the same day that the alleged ringleader of the group, Zakaria Amara, was given a life sentence, the stiffest yet imposed under the Anti-Terrorism Act. But with credit for time already served, Amara will become eligible for parole in just over six years, prosecutors said.

A spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service could not be reached immediately for comment on Monday.

Reporting by Frank McGurty and Cameron French

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