Appeal Court: Ottawa man’s 12-year sentence for terror offences ‘fit’

Ontario’s highest court rules on the case of Misbahuddin Ahmed, who was convicted of two terror counts in July 2014

TORONTO – A 12-year prison sentence handed to an Ottawa man for his role in a terrorist conspiracy was appropriate, Ontario’s top court ruled Friday.

In dismissing appeals by both prosecution and defence, the court found no reason to interfere with the punishment meted out to Misbahuddin Ahmed, who was convicted of two terror counts in July 2014.

“The 12-year global sentence imposed on Mr. Ahmed for the two terrorism-related offences in respect of which he was convicted reveals no reversible error, is entitled to deference, and in all the circumstances was a fit sentence,” the Appeal Court said.

“Further, there is no reason to interfere with the trial judge’s disposition concerning Mr. Ahmed’s parole eligibility.”

Ahmed could have been jailed for 24 years for convictions of conspiracy to facilitate terrorist activity and participation in the activities of a terrorist group. Instead, Superior Court Justice Colin McKinnon gave him a total 12-year sentence.

McKinnon also imposed normal parole-eligibility criteria rather than those reserved for terrorism offences that mandate a person serve at least one half the sentence or 10 years. The regular requirements mean he can apply for release after serving one-third of his sentence.

In its appeal, the prosecution asked for a 20-year term and the longer period of parole ineligibility. Among other things, it maintained McKinnon was wrong in his assessment of the seriousness of the offence and Ahmed’s actions.

Ahmed, who was acquitted of the most serious charge — possession of explosives with intent to do harm, also appealed his punishment. He argued McKinnon had been too harsh and that a sentence of five to eight years would have been fit.

In upholding the term handed down, the Ontario Court of Appeal cited a decision from the country’s top court urging avoidance of the temptation to “fashion rigid sentencing principles applicable to terrorism offences as a distinct class.”

As such, the Appeal Court said, the only issue was whether McKinnon had made legal errors or imposed a “demonstrably unfit” sentence.

In sentencing him, McKinnon found that Ahmed, who gave a heartfelt apology for his actions, had learned his lesson and was at low risk to reoffend or become involved in any further terrorist activity. Had terrorism not been involved, the judge said, he might have considered Ahmed a candidate for a conditional sentence.

The married father of three young children, a first-time offender, was working as an imaging technician at a hospital in Ottawa when he was arrested as a 26-year-old in 2010 with a bag of bomb-making components.

Also charged in the case were Hiva Alizadeh, who had been to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, and Ahmed’s close friend, Dr. Khurram Syed Sher, an anatomical pathologist in St. Thomas, Ont. Alizadeh pleaded guilty and was jailed for 24 years. Sher was acquitted.

Evidence at trial was that Alizadeh wanted to form a terrorist group in Ottawa dedicated to violent jihad and to carrying out attacks in Canada. Ahmed knew Alizadeh’s views and wanted to go to a training camp as well. He also gave Alizadeh money for foreign terrorists to buy grenades.

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