The Ottawa-born man is serving a life sentence in connection with his role in a plot to bomb targets in the UK.

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The appeals division of Canada’s Parole Board has denied convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja’s request for parole, saying he has yet to take responsibility for his crimes.

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In a recently published decision, the appeals division upheld the parole board’s rejection of Khawaja’s parole request in February.

Khawaja, 43, has been behind bars for 18 years after being arrested in 2004 and charged with seven terrorism-related offences.

The Ottawa man was later convicted of five counts and sentenced to life in prison in connection with his role in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb targets in the UK. Five British men received life sentences relative to the same fertilizer pump plot.

Khawaja was the first Canadian convicted and sentenced under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Law, which took effect three months after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

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The appeals division said Khawaja “compartmentalized” his involvement in international terrorism and downplayed the potential impact of building a bomb detonator for the British terror cell.

“Taking responsibility for building electronic devices or funding and training terrorist organizations to further their interests without a full appreciation of how their role contributed to and facilitated the terrorist organizations’ broader goals is problematic,” the appellate division said in denying the request. Khawaja’s probation officer.

In making its decision, the appeal panel considered a risk assessment of Khawaja from November 2021 prepared by the Correctional Service of Canada. During that evaluation, Khawaja told a psychologist that no one was harmed, physically or psychologically, by his work on the detonator. Khawaja also said that he took responsibility for what he did.

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The appeal panel said that Khawaja’s contradictory statements deflected his own responsibility from promoting the interests of terrorist groups.

In February, when the parole board first denied Khawaja a day’s parole, it said he posed an “undue risk to society”.

Khawaja’s appeal argued that the board failed to consider how his values ​​and beliefs had changed during his imprisonment. With the help of two imams, Khawaja said, he has turned away from extremism “towards a more democratic, moral and Canadian view of society.”

Khawaja told the board that he wanted to move to a halfway house in Ottawa, study law and help refugees.

However, the appellate division panel said Khawaja did not provide details on how he had changed and did not come up with a structured and workable release plan.

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Khawaja was arrested in March 2004 at Global Affairs Canada, where he was working under contract as a software developer. He went on trial in June 2008 and pleaded not guilty to seven crimes under the new terrorism section of the Penal Code.

It was the first major post-9/11 terrorism trial in Canada.

Prosecutors relied on Khawaja’s voluminous email to show that he was a committed Islamic jihadist who idolized Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

In one such email, Khawaja praised the 9/11 hijackers as “effective and honorable” economic jihadis whose actions, if repeated, could bring down the United States, which he said is at war with Islam. “Yes, I understand that human beings died, but there is absolutely no other way to accomplish the same goal with the same effect,” he wrote.

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Federal prosecutors charged him with aiding and abetting the foiled British bomb plot. Specifically, they said, he funneled money to the group and was building a radio-frequency device, dubbed the “Hi-Fi Digimonster,” to remotely detonate bombs.

Defense lawyer Lawrence Greenspon accepted the Crown’s claim that Khawaja was a jihadist, but argued that his client was not a terrorist as he had no intention of harming civilians and was unaware of the British bomb plan. Khawaja, he said, wanted to fight Western invaders who were occupying Afghanistan or Iraq.

Judge Douglas Rutherford convicted Khawaja of five counts of terrorism but said there was insufficient evidence to show he knew his detonator would be used against civilians.

Khawaja was originally sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison, but the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the sentence was not appropriate. The court said it “did not reflect the enormity of the defendant’s crimes,” and replaced it with a 24-year sentence.

In a 2013 interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Khawaja said he was gradually drawn to jihadi ideology after seeing the suffering of Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. He found like-minded groups on the Internet, he said, and adopted his radicalized worldview.

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