A convicted terrorist lectured a Canadian court in Toronto on Friday about his extremist views before he was jailed for life for his role in the al-Qaeda-inspired Toronto-18 plot unearthed five years ago.
The plot was uncovered with the arrest of 18 Muslim youths from the Toronto area in June 2006. The plotters had planned to storm the Canadian parliament, take Prime Minister Stephen Harper hostage and behead him.
They had also planned to use blow up the Toronto Stock Exchange, military installations and offices of the Canadian spy agency to revenge Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan.
To carry out the plot, they had undergone training in firearms at a rural camp far away from Toronto in December 2005. The plot, which could have become Canada's 9/11, was unearthed with the help of a mole who was paid more than $4 million by the police to act as a co-conspirator.
With 11 members of the terror plot already sentenced to varying jail terms, including life sentence for ringleader Zakaria Amara, Shareef Abdelhaleem was the last member of the plot to be sentenced to life term Friday.
Before his sentencing, in his 23-minute speech - which the judge later described as a "lengthy political diatribe'' - the terrorist said he was being unfairly targeted because of his religion.
He told the judge to treat him like "white Catholic and not a Muslim'' while pronouncing his sentence.
Though he said "I am sorry'' for the plot, Abdelhaleem insisted that the recent rebellions in the Middle East, including the removal of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, justified his extremist political views.
Telling the terrorist that the court verdict had nothing to do with his religion, the judge said, "Mr. Abdelhaleem exhibits no genuine remorse or insight into his behaviour and has so far not accepted responsibility for his dangerous actions.''
Under Canada's lenient terror laws, the 35-year-old former software engineer, who has spent four years and eight months in jail since his arrest June 2, 2006, would be eligible for parole in just five years.
Because of these lax laws, Canada has often come under criticism from the US where many people still believe that the 9/11 hijackers came from Canada. The US has also made passports mandatory for Canadians travelling into the country.