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Toronto 18 mastermind sentenced to life in prison

Zakaria's lawyer talks to reporters outside Brampton courthouse, Monday

Zakaria Amara, the 24-year-old mastermind behind a plot to blow up several Canadian targets, has been sentenced to life in prison.

He will be eligible for parole in just over six years. 

Meanwhile, Toronto 18 terrorist Saad Gaya has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, minus seven-and-a-half years credit for pre-trial custody.

Gaya, 22, pleaded guilty in September to belonging to a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion.

He was among 18 men and youths arrested in July 2006 and charged in a plot to bomb several targets.

His lawyer, Paul Slansky, has described Gaya as a relatively minor member of the plot who was duped by other members.

At his sentencing hearing last month, Gaya, who was a teenaged McMaster University student at the time of the plot, addressed the court and said he was “extremely grateful” the scheme “did not progress any further.”

He said he didn’t want to be branded a terrorist and that he didn’t know the intended targets were the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Toronto offices of Canada’s spy agency.

The mastermind, Amara told the court he renounces the extremist ideology that led him to plot mass destruction.

So far, there have been four guilty pleas and one conviction in the case:

-Zakaria Amara, pleaded guilty, sentencing on Monday
-Saad Gaya, pleaded guilty, sentenced to 12 years in prison, minus seven-and-a-half years credit for pre-trial custody
-Ali Dirie, 26, pleaded guilty, sentenced to 10 years in prison
-Saad Khalid, 23, pleaded guilty, sentenced to 14 years in prison
-Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, 21, case went to trial and he was found guilty, sentenced to two-and-a-half years, but got out in May 2009 after being credited with time served

A third suspect is currently on trial and five other accused members of the Toronto 18 are awaiting trial.

Charges have been dropped or stayed against seven others.

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