The Crown wants the maximum sentence, 10 years behind bars for the first person convicted under Canadian terror laws.
Mohamed Hersi was found guilty last month of attempting to participate in the activities of a terrorist group and of counselling a person to participate in terrorist activity.
Hersi was handcuffed at Pearson Airport in 2011 while trying to board a flight. The Somali-born Canadian says he was going to Egypt to study Arabic. But the prosecution insists he was ultimately headed for Somalia to join Al-Shabab, a terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda.
During Hersi’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, Crown attorney James Clark argued linking oneself to a terrorist group is an “inherently violent” activity.
But Hersi’s lawyer disagreed, insisting not everything terror cells, including Al-Shabab, do is necessarily violent.
“They (Al-Shabab) don’t recruit people saying ‘global jihad, come and kill people!’, Paul Slansky told reporters outside the courthouse. “They recruit on the basis that we’re fighting against incursions and invasions of our country, ‘come and support your country’.” Slanksy suggests that is what Hersi intended to do.
“I’m not saying Al-Shabab is an admirable organization. They’re not, they’re a terrorist organization. But that doesn’t mean everything they do, or everyone who wants to join them is doing so for the purposes of violent terrorist activity.”
Slansky characterized Hersi not as a radical, but as a moderate Muslim with more interest in sports, action movies, pornography and pot than in becoming a jihadist fighter.
The defence is pushing for a sentence in the two and a half to four year range. The Crown is after a 10-year maximum to send a strong message to would-be Canadian terrorists.
A Somali woman who identified herself as a member of Hersi’s family but would not give her name, said Wednesday that Hersi did not grow up with the values of Al-Shabab and that family members would have known if he was “planning something.”
“They’re (Al-Shabab) bad people who ruin other people’s lives...blowing up people, but that’s not what he’s about”, the woman said.
Hersi’s family and his lawyer say he was entrapped by an undercover police officer. They plan to appeal his conviction.
It was a USB stick left in a bag of clothes at Toronto drycleaners’ that sparked the investigation in 2010. On the jump drive: digital copies of The Anarchist Cookbook, which includes recipes for making bombs, a Canadian Forces Operational manual and reports from the security company Hersi worked for at the time.
Citing the gravity of the charges, Superior Court Justice Deena Baltman said Wednesday that she wanted to take time to make her decision and to lay out her reasons.
Mohamed Hersi will learn his fate July 24.