Canada seeks longer jail term for Pakistani-origin terrorist

February 16th, 2010 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Feb 16 (IANS) With a trial court here giving plotters of Canada’s biggest terror attack sentences “not proportionate with the offence”, the government has decided to appeal at least one verdict.
The Al Qaeda-inspired plot was unearthed in June 2006 with the arrest of 18 Toronto-area Muslims, mostly of Pakistani descent.

Five of them have been found guilty so far, with plot leader Zakaria Amara getting a life term. But a lighter 12-year jail term for his co-conspirator Pakistani-born Saad Gaya has prompted the government to appeal.

In what could have Canada’s 9/11, the terrorists had planned to storm and blow up the nation’s parliament, take leaders hostage and behead the prime minister.

They had also planned to drive explosive-laden trucks into the offices of the Canadian spy agency, the Toronto Stock Exchange and a military base here.

To carry out the plot in revenge for Canada’s participation in the Afghan mission, the terrorists had undergone training in a winter camp far away from Toronto in December 2005.

But the plot was uncovered with the help of a mole - a local Muslim youth who was paid more than $4 million by police.

Five have been found guilty, including plot leader Zakaria Amara who was given life term last month. Six still await trial and charges against seven have been either withdrawn or suspended.

But what has irked the government is the 12-year sentence given to Amara’s co-conspirator Pakistani-born Saad Gaya.

Since Gaya, 22, has already spent more than three years in jail, he was given double the credit for that time and thus actually given only four and a half years in jail. But under law, he will be eligible for parole in just one and a half years.

Calling this sentence “not proportionate to the gravity of the offence”, the Canadian government Monday decided to appeal the verdict.

In a statement, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said it would appeal “the sentencing decision in the case of Saad Gaya”.

“The trial judge erred in finding that the respondent’s statement post-arrest amounted to cooperation, which could mitigate sentence,” the Canadian Press has quoted government lawyers as writing in their notice of appeal.

According to the lawyers, the trial judge “unduly emphasised” the rehabilitation of the young offender and erred in not ordering him to serve at least of half of his sentence before being released on parole, the Canadian Press said.

Stiff sentences are rare under lax criminal laws in Canada, which has no death penalty.

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