Zakaria Amara, the mastermind of a 2006 terrorist plot to bomb Toronto, has been sentenced by an Ontario judge to life in prison, a punishment that represents the courtroom climax of the so-called "Toronto 18" case.
Mr. Justice Bruce Durno's decision is the stiffest punishment imposed in the terrorism conspiracy and also the stiffest punishment imposed to date under Canada's antiterrorism laws, which Parliament passed in the aftermath of al-Qaeda's 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.
"What thus case revealed was spine chilling," said Judge Durno, stressing the case should bring the threat of terrorism home to Canadians.
"It cannot be said these things happen only in other countries," he added as he read aloud his written decision. "These things happen here."
Five years after New York's World Trade Center towers were razed, a suburban gas station attendant, then barely out of his teens, was inspired by al-Qaeda to follow suit.
Mr. Amara, a Cypriot-Jordanian who had immigrated to Canada in his early teens, hoped to shock Parliament into pulling Canada's soldiers from Afghanistan.
Police had Mr. Amara under constant surveillance in Mississauga during the months leading up to his arrest, catching him in a relentless pursuit of a singular goal: He wanted to build truck bombs and explode them in downtown Toronto.
The RCMP, the federal police agency that spent millions pursuing the case, ultimately used an expensive sting operation to ensnare Mr. Amara and his accomplices – paying two Muslim infiltrators millions to unfurl the plot.
"Zakaria Amara did not just commit a criminal offence. He committed a terrorist offence that would have had catastrophic consequences," said Judge Durno. "... He did not serve as a foot soldier but as a leader."
For that reason, he said, Mr. Amara's degree of culpability in one of the most horrific crimes envisioned in Canadian history was "hard to put into words."
Toronto 18 mastermind sentenced to life in prison - The Globe and Mail