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By Carys Mills

A former Ryerson student was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, the most severe sentencing ever given under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

Zakaria Amara plotted a series of explosions to cripple the Canadian economy, targeting the Toronto Stock Exhange, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) headquarters and a military base. “It would’ve changed the lives of many, if not all Canadians, forever,” said Justice Bruce Durno, reading Amara’s sentence at a Brampton court. He called the Toronto 18 plot “spine-chilling.”

As ringleader of the plot, Amara would have seen three U-Haul trucks packed with fertilizer bombs create chaos in 2006. A remote controlled detonator would have set off bombs packed with metal chips. He also led a terrorist training camp.

Amara kept his head bowed throughout his sentencing. In October, he pleaded guilty to knowingly participating in or contributing to a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion that was likely to cause serious bodily harm, death or damage to property.

Amara, now 24, will be eligible for parole in six years and three months.

“The parole board could decide never to release him,” said Amara’s lawyer, Michael Lacy, despite Amara’s eligibility to be granted parole before his 30th birthday. Lacy, who was seeking for a sentence of 18-20 years, said he was disappointed with the sentence.

During the sentencing, the possibility of Amara pursuing his degree was mentioned. Lacy said he will be able to pursue education while he’s held in what will most likely be a medium or maximum security federal prison.

Amara read a letter to Canadians last week in a hearing, admitting he was aware that many or all Canadians might never forgive him.

Shortly after his sentencing, Amara addressed the court.

“I just want to reassure you that whatever promises I made… I will still try my best,” he said. Earlier on Monday, Saad Gaya, another player in the plot was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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