From The National Post
‘Toronto 18’ gun smuggler pleads guilty
Stewart Bell and Adrian Humphreys,
National Post Published: Monday, September 21, 2009
Kagan McLeod/National Post
Ali Dirie, left, has pleaded guilty to gun smuggling charges.
Dirie is one of the men involved with the Toronto 18.
TORONTO — A Toronto man caught smuggling handguns into Canada pleaded guilty to terrorism charges on Monday, making him the latest of the “Toronto 18” group to admit to wrongdoing.
Ali Mohamed Dirie, 26, who was born in Somalia and raised in Syria and Toronto, was to appear in court on Wednesday for a sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to participating in the activities of a terrorist group.
Both the defence and government officials confirmed the plea. Dirie still faces a second charge that will be dealt with after he is sentenced on Oct. 2, said Dan Brien, communications director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
A resident of suburban Markham, Dirie was one of 18 Toronto-area men charged in 2006 in connection with a plot to carry out terrorist attacks in southern Ontario to protest Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan.
His guilty plea comes less than three weeks after another member of the group, Saad Khalid, was sentenced to 14 years. A third member of the group, Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, was convicted last September. Eight accused are still awaiting trial.
After losing his father in the Somali conflict, Dirie came to Toronto with his mother but he has said he had a “bad temper” and was often angry. In 1999, he was convicted of assault after pulling a knife on a victim who he felt had looked at him in an odd manner.
While he was trouble in his youth, Dirie “was trying to become a better person spiritually,” his brother Jafar said in an interview. Following a trip to Somalia in January 2005, Dirie decided to go into the clothing business and would drive to the United States, buy jeans and sell them on the streets of Toronto.
But on Aug. 13, 2005, as he was returning to Canada in a rented Buick Allure, he was arrested at the Peace Bridge border crossing. Customs officers found two loaded semi-automatic handguns taped to his body. The driver, Yasin Mohamed, was also carrying a gun.
Both were arrested and pleaded guilty to gun possession charges. Ten months later, prosecutors filed new charges against them, alleging they had been involved in terrorism. The Crown eventually dropped the terror charges against Mohamed but continued to prosecute Dirie.
Parole documents obtained by the National Post indicate that while Dirie was imprisoned he was charged with being under the influence, disobeying an order, being disrespectful and committing or threatening assault.
“It appears that you are comfortable with gang members, and have a history of violence and weapons possession,” the National Parole Board wrote. He admitted to the board that he had “made very poor decision in the past, impulsively and without any thought to the consequences.”
Dirie’s involvement in the terrorist group cannot be thoroughly divulged due to a court-ordered publication ban. He was already in custody for gun smuggling when much of the alleged terrorist plot was unfolding. A 28-page statement detailing his role in the group was expected to be filed in court in Brampton this week.
“There is an agreed statement of facts that defence counsel and I have worked through in respect to what exactly Mr. Dirie is admitting,” said Clyde Bond, a federal prosecutor handling the case. Mr. Bond declined to say what sentence he would be seeking.
Robert Nuttall, Dirie’s lawyer, confirmed his client had pleaded guilty but declined to discuss the case, citing caution regarding publication bans that could impact others still before the court. “There were no facts read into the record or anything like that. There was just a simple plea,” Mr. Nuttall said.
When they were arrested, the Toronto 18 group was allegedly in the process of building bombs that they intended to place in rented trucks and detonate using a cell phone activated trigger.
The targets were the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS regional office next to the CN Tower and a military base between Toronto and Ottawa but no attacks ever occurred.
Following the arrests, CSIS described the group as “adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al-Qaeda.” Their lawyers and supporters have played down the threat, depicting them as harmless young men acting out fantasies.