TORONTO – A Canadian accused of plotting with a group of British Muslims to bomb buildings and natural gas lines in the United Kingdom was convicted Wednesday of financing and facilitating terrorism.
Momim Khawaja, was the first person charged under Canadian anti-terrorism laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. His case is considered to be the first major test of those laws.
A 29-year-old Pakistani-born Canadian, Khawaja was accused of collaborating with a group of Britons of Pakistani descent in a thwarted 2004 plan to attack London's Ministry of Sound nightclub, a shopping center and electrical and gas facilities in Britain. Prosecutors painted Khawaja as an extremist who, along with conspirators in Britain, was determined to sow havoc.
Though he pleaded not guilty to all charges, his lawyer acknowledged that Khawaja created a remote-control device for setting off explosives. But the lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, insisted it was meant for use against military targets in Afghanistan — not for a homemade fertilizer bomb being constructed by the plotters in London. He said the plotters never let Khawaja in on their plans to mount attacks in Britain.
Five alleged co-conspirators were convicted in London last year and jailed for life.
Justice Douglas Rutherford convicted Khawaja on five charges of financing and facilitating terrorism.
He was also found guilty of two criminal offences related to building the remote-control device, known as the Hi-Fi Digimonster.
But Rutherford concluded he was not guilty of terrorism offences related to the Digimonster, saying there was not sufficient proof Khawaja knew it was to be used in fertilizer-powered attacks.
"Momin Khawaja was aware of the group's purposes, and whether he considered them terrorism or not, he assisted the group in many ways in the pursuit of its terrorist objective," Rutherford wrote in his judgment.
"It matters not whether any terrorist activity was actually carried out."
Khawaja, to be sentenced next month, could face life in prison.
The prosecution's key witness, Mohammed Babar, a former al-Qaida operative turned police informant, testified that Khawaja attended a training camp in Pakistan in 2003. He also claimed Khawaja acted as a courier to deliver money and supplies and discussed various potential operations.