Police say New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square were some of the targets for the alleged terrorist plot. (Canadian Press photo)

Canadian who admitted to plotting terrorist attacks asks for ‘second chance’

Police say he was part of a plot by Islamic State sympathizers to attack New York City

A Canadian who admitted to plotting a terrorist attack on New York City is pleading for “a second chance” in a letter submitted to the court ahead of his upcoming sentencing.

In the letter filed to a New York court on Friday, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy of Mississauga, Ont., outlined his personal history with addiction and mental illness, and explained that he felt American airstrikes against the Middle East drove him to jihadism.

The 20-year-old wrote that he felt that Americans were trying to disrupt the lives of people in the Middle East with airstrikes and he thought ”it was appropriate to use similar methods back until and unless they stop.”

The 24-page hand-written letter, addressed to the judge in his case and partially redacted, is part of a package his lawyers submitted ahead of his sentencing for multiple terrorism-related charges that he pleaded guilty to last year.

El Bahnasawy described his disenfranchisement with western society, including “so-called democracy and freedom.”

He said he chose to go to the U.S. to carry out the plan because Canada had recently stopped its airstrikes, “and it didn’t make sense to transgress back against them in such a way.”

Police secretly arrested El Bahnasawy, then 18, in what they said was a plot by Islamic State sympathizers to attack New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square. He was arrested after travelling from Canada to New Jersey in 2016. The records in his case were sealed for over a year as police tried to hunt down his accomplices.

Authorities announced the charges against him after two other suspects were arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines.

The Canadian didn’t discuss the specifics of the plot in the letter, instead focusing on why he decided to go to such extremes.

“My detailed reasons about this is in no way a justification for it, I merely am explaining my thought process at the time,” he wrote, adding that he no longer believes extremism is the answer.

“There are many issues in this world but I don’t want to lose my life or freedom to try fixing them, and I definitely do not want to resort to violence or harm to fix them. I sincerely apologize for my (behaviour) and I only ask for a second chance.”

El Bahnasawy also used the letter to outline his struggles with addiction and mental illness, including several trips into hospital psychiatric wards and rehab centres. He said he spent a month in a psych ward in Kuwait, and eight months in rehab in Egypt. Court records show he also spent time at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

“I want to experience life away from drugs and away from war and violence,” he wrote.

He wrote that he wondered where he would be if anyone who knew about his plans had encouraged him to find a more productive way to fight the injustice he saw in the world.

The young man’s lawyers, in a submission included in the package with the letter, requested the judge impose a sentence “no greater than necessary to comply with (the law).”

They suggested that his release might coincide with ”the onset of Abdulrahman’s mid-twenties when his cognitive development will be complete.”

El Bahnasawy’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 9.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Hope man receives letter of apology after being escorted out of Chilliwack library

Mike Wilson fears the same treatment he received Nov. 2 by security guards will happen to others

Chilliwack school kids draw ‘don’t drink and drive’ messages on liquor store bags

Children from six elementary schools decorate bags as part of promotion created by local Mountie

New exercise class in Hope fills a need for those who can’t attend other seniors fitness classes

Get Up & Go is gentle exercise with a goal of increasing quality of life and social connections

PHOTOS: Christmas comes early for Hope shoppers

Local merchants kept shops open late for Dec. 8 Ho Ho Hope Christmas Fest

Strong winds to hit B.C.’s south coast

Western regions may see winds of up to 80 km/hr

Story of the Year: Deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash

The Canadian Press annual survey of newsrooms across the country saw 53 out of 129 editors cast their votes for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Road to the World Juniors leads through B.C.

Finland plays Denmark on Wednesday, United States takes on Czech Republic on Saturday

Trump signs order to create US Space Command

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to create a U.S. Space Command.

Groups preparing new pipeline legal challenge, argue government’s mind made up

A Vancouver-based environment charity is readying itself to go back to court if the federal government reapproves the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Notorious Toronto triple killer gets third consecutive life sentence

Dellen Millard gets third consecutive life sentence for father’s death.

‘Subdued’ housing market predicted in B.C. through 2021: report

The Central 1 Credit Union report predicts “rising but subdued sales” over the next three years, with little movement in median home prices.

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

Was there any pop culture this year? Of course there was.

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Price of Alberta oil plummeted so low that Alberta’s Premier said Canada was practically giving it away

Wicked weather, including heavy snow, rainfall, hammers southern B.C.

Environment Canada has posted winter storm warnings for the Coquihalla Highway, Highway 3

Most Read