TORONTO (AP) – A Canadian accused of plotting with a group of British Muslims to bomb buildings and natural gas lines in the United Kingdom was convicted Wednesday of financing and facilitating terrorism.

Momim Khawaja was the first person charged under Canadian anti-terrorism laws passed after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. His case is considered to be the first major test of those laws.

A 29-year-old Canadian of Pakistani descent, Khawaja was accused of collaborating with a group of Britons of Pakistani descent in a thwarted 2004 plan to attack London’s Ministry of Sound nightclub, a shopping center and electrical and gas facilities in Britain. Prosecutors painted Khawaja as an extremist who, along with conspirators in Britain, was determined to sow havoc.

“Momin Khawaja was aware of the group’s purposes, and whether he considered them terrorism or not, he assisted the group in many ways in the pursuit of its terrorist objective,” Justice Douglas Rutherford wrote in his judgment.

Though he pleaded not guilty to all charges, his lawyer acknowledged Khawaja created a remote-control device for setting off explosives. But the lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, insisted it was meant for use against military targets in Afghanistan – not for a homemade fertilizer bomb being constructed by the plotters in London.

Five alleged co-conspirators were convicted in London last year and jailed for life.

Rutherford convicted Khawaja on five charges of financing and facilitating terrorism. He also convicted Khawaja of two criminal offences related to building the remote-control device, known as the Hi-Fi Digimonster.

But Rutherford acquitted the defendant of terrorism offenses related to the Digimonster, saying there was not sufficient proof that Khawaja knew it was to be used in fertilizer-powered attacks.

Khawaja, to be sentenced next month, could face life in prison.

But Greenspon called the ruling a victory, saying the charges on which Khawaja was convicted were the less serious ones.

“The prosecution fundamentally was directed at his involvement in the London bombing. The judge has acquitted him on that,” Greenspon said.

Wesley Wark, a University of Toronto professor and national security expert, disputed Greenspon’s claim. He said Canada’s anti-terrorism laws allow for a conviction even if a suspect does not fully know the details of the conspiracy.

“The reality is that this was a defeat for his client. His client faces life imprisonment. His client is a convicted terrorist,” Wark said.

The prosecution’s key witness, Mohammed Babar, a former al-Qaida operative turned police informant, testified that Khawaja attended a training camp in Pakistan in 2003. He also claimed Khawaja acted as a courier to deliver money and supplies and discussed various potential operations.

AP-ES-10-29-08 1637EDT

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