A Canadian man accused of participating in military exercises as part of a group authorities say plotted to storm Parliament and behead the prime minister was found guilty Thursday.
The man's attorney says the plot was a “jihadi fantasy” and that his client knew nothing about it.
A judge ruled Thursday that evidence of a terrorist group was “overwhelming.” The man is the first person to be found guilty of a terrorist offense in Canada since the country enacted anti-terrorism laws in 2001.
The arrests of the 18 group members, known as the “Toronto 18,” made headlines around the world and heightened fears in Canada.
Prosecutors said there were plans to truck-bomb nuclear power plants and a building housing Canada's spy service. Seven of those arrested have since had their charges either withdrawn, or stayed. The trials of 10 adults, including the alleged ringleaders, have yet to begin. The young man was the first to go on trial.
Superior Court Justice John Sproat found the man guilty of knowingly participating in a terrorist group. As the 94-page judgment was handed down, the defendant's mother wept quietly in the back of the court.
The man has not been identified because he was 17, a legal minor, when he was arrested in 2006. He is now 20.
Prosecutors argued he attended a training camp where he participated in military exercises and firearms training and that he knowingly participated in a potentially deadly conspiracy. He had pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges.
Sproat rejected the defense argument that the plot was a “jihadi fantasy.”
“He clearly understood the camp was for terrorist purposes,” he said.
The defense, with the help of the prosecution's star witness, had cast the plot as “musings and fantasies” with no possibility of being carried out.
Sproat, however, said few would have believed the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. were a possibility before they happened.
“I'm satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a terrorist group existed,” Sproat said.