Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Who Plotted Terror Attacks Deserves Life in Prison: U.S. Prosecutors

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Who Plotted Terror Attacks Deserves Life in Prison: U.S. Prosecutors

Article excerpt

Life sentence requested for Cdn who plotted U.S. terror attack

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American prosecutors are requesting a life sentence for a Canadian man who admitted to plotting terrorist attacks on New York City landmarks at the behest of a high-ranking Islamic State operative.

Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., pleaded guilty in October 2016 to planning bombings and mass shootings at Times Square, in subway stations and at concert venues while still a teenager.

With his sentencing scheduled for April 9, American federal prosecutors have asked a judge to send El Bahnasawy to prison for life, in accordance with U.S. guidelines for punishing similar terror offences.

"El Bahnasawy's willingness to kill innocent civilians and martyr himself for ISIS, his absolute commitment to ISIS at the time of his arrest, and his deeply disturbing conduct since then ... powerfully support a single conclusion: the incapacitation of El Bahnasawy should be total and lifelong," U.S. prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said in a written submission filed to a New York federal court.

El Bahnasawy's lawyers have requested a sentence "no greater than necessary to comply with (the law)," and suggested he be released from custody in his mid-twenties, "when his cognitive development will be complete.''

El Bahnasawy, a Canadian citizen who emigrated from Kuwait as a child, spent several months in treatment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto in 2014, court documents show.

In a handwritten letter submitted to the court on March 2, El Bahnasawy apologized for his behaviour and asked for a "second chance," recounting his years of substance abuse, mental health issues and multiple suicide attempts.

"I want to experience life away from drugs and away from war and violence," he wrote. "I want a stable life and I want to stop having extreme turns that keep getting me in trouble, like my turn towards drugs or my turn towards jihad."

But Berman argued in his submission to the court that neither mental illness nor addiction justify, explain or mitigate El Bahnasawy's criminal actions.

"If anything, El Bahnasawy's asserted instabilities and addictive tendencies only further underscore the need for a sentence of life imprisonment to protect the public from a future attack or other criminal conduct by El Bahnasawy," Berman said. …

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