A Canadian man has been found guilty of participating in a terrorist group that allegedly planned to storm parliament and behead the prime minister.
The 20-year-old was arrested in 2006 along with 17 others in a massive anti-terrorism operation in Toronto.
Delivering the verdict, the judge said there was "overwhelming" evidence that a terrorist group existed and that the accused "knew what it was about".
The trials of 10 others, including the alleged ringleaders, are still pending.
Charges against the remaining suspects have since been dropped.
The man, a convert to Islam, cannot be identified under Canadian law as he was a minor at the time his arrest in 2006.
He had denied all terrorism-related charges, and his lawyer argued that the bomb plot was a "jihadi fantasy" that the accused knew nothing about.
However, Superior Court Justice John Sproat found him guilty of attending terrorist training camps and described him as an eager "acolyte" of the ringleader.
"He clearly understood the camp was for terrorist purposes," the judge told a court in Ontario.
"Planning and working toward ultimate goals that appear unattainable or even unrealistic does not militate against a finding that this was a terrorist group," he said.
He found the defendant guilty of participating in a terrorist organisation rather than the more serious crime of plotting bomb attacks - a charge faced by some of the group.
The cell members were arrested in the summer of 2006.
Prosecutors said the group conspired to obtain several tonnes of ammonium nitrate - a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives - and bomb key Canadian landmarks including the parliament buildings in Ottawa.
Canada's intelligence agency described the alleged campaign as "al-Qaeda inspired". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7636235.stm
Evidence of terror group 'overwhelming,' judge rules in finding youth guilty
BRAMPTON, Ont. — A homegrown Islamic terrorist cell that adhered to al-Qaida principles and was bent on wreaking havoc and bloodshed in Canada clearly existed, a judge ruled Thursday in finding a youth guilty of active membership in the group.
In the first verdict under Canada's new anti-terrorism laws, Ontario Superior Court Justice John Sproat rejected defence assertions the Toronto-area plot was nothing more than "musings and fantasies."
"It might well have been said prior to Sept. 11, 2001 that a plan to kill thousands and destroy landmark buildings in lower Manhattan and Washington had no possibility of implementation," Sproat said.
Sproat dismissed defence assertions that the group's co-leader - the youth's friend and mentor - was a self-aggrandizing liar who simply talked an ugly extremist game.
"I also reject the argument that (the alleged ringleader) was a hapless fanatic who posed no risk."
The 20-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he was 17 at the time of his offences, showed little emotion as the verdict was read.
His mother, sitting in the jammed courtroom with other relatives and supporters, wept quietly as the 94-page judgment was handed down and her son was led back into custody.
He faces a maximum 10-year sentence.
"Realistically, he was found to be a peripheral member of the group and hopefully the court will recognize that," his lawyer, Mitchell Chernovsky said.
In the summer of 2006, an intense investigation involving Canada's spy agency and the RCMP ended with the arrests of 18 people in the Toronto area and the seizure of apparent bomb-making materials.
Police alleged the suspects planned to buy weapons and set off truck bombs using three tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
The case took a stunning turn when allegations surfaced that the ringleaders had talked about plans to storm Parliament, take MPs hostage and behead the prime minister.
"The purpose was to intimidate the public and politicians in order to secure a change in government policy and release of Muslim prisoners," Sproat said.
Seven accused have since had their charges stayed or dropped.
Ten other suspects have yet to stand trial. The judge named five of them as members of the terrorist conspiracy but said others may have been involved as well.
Much of the prosecution's case turned on the evidence of RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh, who was paid $300,000 to infiltrate the group.
Sproat was unequivocal in his remarks about Shaikh, who admitted buying ammunition and shooting a gun in front of a participants at what the Crown called a terrorist-training camp north of Toronto.
"The defence did not seriously challenge Mr. Shaikh's credibility," Sproat said. "I found him to be a truthful and generally reliable witness."
Besides, the judge said, other evidence corroborated Shaikh's story and evidence the terrorist group existed was "overwhelming."
Outside court, Shaikh said he felt vindicated by the judge's findings but insisted, as he did during his testimony, the youth did not know what the group was up to.
"I don't believe he's a terrorist. I don't believe he should have been put through what he was put through, but that's our system," Shaikh said.
Although the youth was found guilty, the judge agreed to hold off on entering a formal conviction until a defence "abuse of process motion" is heard in December.
Essentially, Shaikh was more of an active participant and instigator in criminal activities than a fly-on-the-wall informant, Chernovksy said after the verdict.
Shaikh defended his role.
"Stopping something from happening or even protecting the honour of the Muslims, protecting the honour, the integrity of our country . . . I would do it again a thousand times."
In his ruling, Sproat rejected defence arguments that two camps organized by the alleged ringleaders were simply a religious retreat or recreational in nature.
Sproat noted participants, including the accused, marched, played paintball games, shot a 9-mm handgun, and heard lectures on waging war on the West during a camp north of Toronto in December 2005.
"It is inconceivable to me that by the end of the camp there was any doubt about its purpose," the judge said.
Sproat was adamant the young man, as an "eager acolyte" of the "charismatic" ringleader, was aware of the group's murderous intentions and did his part to help by shoplifting walkie-talkies and camping supplies.
"He had a full appreciation of the nature of the terrorist group." http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gWT-l6g3nlt6sz3xdOyPDcfpqCMg