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Member of so-called Toronto 18 makes case for parole

A member of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist cell that planned to wreak havoc on Canadian targets swears he's now a changed man.

But Ali Dirie says he doesn't expect parole officials to recognize that.

Appearing Monday at a parole hearing north of Montreal, Mr. Dirie said he's still opposed to Canada's role in Afghanistan.

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But he says he's now pushing for political and peaceful solutions instead of terrorist acts - like blowing up buildings and attacking politicians.

"I oppose it and I think it's an unjust war," Mr. Dirie said on Afghanistan.

"I still oppose it but I don't intend to bring about change by damaging Canada to make them change their ways."

Mr. Dirie was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for his role in a plot to kill politicians and attack targets, such as Parliament.

The Somali-born Mr. Dirie was arrested in 2005 and was already in prison when police moved in on the group in 2006.

With time served, he only had two years left on his sentence and the judge ordered he serve at least one year before being eligible for parole.

Mr. Dirie is locked up in a special-handling unit, reserved for the most violent inmates.

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He told National Parole Board officials he had little faith that they'd believe he'd changed.

The judge who sentenced Mr. Dirie noted he was an unlikely candidate for parole.

That's something the team monitoring his progress concurs with: they believe Mr. Dirie is unmanageable and still poses a threat.

Mr. Dirie says the only people he needs to make amends to are his family and his community.

Unable to do so behind bars, Mr. Dirie said he plans to do so when he's released from prison by October 2011 at the latest.

"At the end of the day, what I'm trying to say is that I'll be out in a year," Mr. Dirie said.

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"I don't have to prove anything to anybody here, I'll have to prove myself to the public and that's all that matters in the end."

At his trial, the court heard that despite his incarceration he tried to recruit inmates for extremist plots while trying to procure weapons and travel documents.

But Mr. Dirie insisted his thoughts on violent action had changed.

"I had a narrow outlook so I thought that this was the only way to bring about change," Mr. Dirie said.

"I was a violent person. I don't believe I am a violent person."

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