November 20, 2017 1:39 pm

Man gets five years in jail for plotting to kill business partner, could be deported

File photo Winnipeg Law Courts.

David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press / File

A Winnipeg man could be sent back to his native Ethiopia after he received a five-year sentence for plotting to kill his business partner.

During the trial of Amare Gebru, court heard that he bought a convenience store with a woman in 2011, but their relationship soured in a hurry.

Gebru tried to convince a regular customer to kill the woman, but this customer told her of the plan, leading to Gebru’s arrest.

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Gebru’s lawyer Mike Cook had argued for a sentence of five months and 29 days because any longer sentence would trigger deportation proceedings. In making this argument, Cook said Gebru is “a good man who did a bad thing.”

But in making his decision, Justice Vic Toews said there needed to be a much harsher punishment.

“Nothing I have heard supports a custodial sentence of less than six months. It would simply be an attempt to circumvent immigration rules,” Toews read. “Cases of this nature usually warrant a sentence of five or six years, and I see no need to deviate, even if it triggers collateral consequences like deportation.”

According to Cook, Gebru has been a beloved member of the Ethiopian community in Winnipeg since arriving in Canada over a decade ago.

“When we did the submissions on sentencing, there was in excess of 100 people in the courtroom, and I’ve never in all my years of practicing seen that many people come to support somebody,” Cook said outside the courthouse. “Hopefully all those people can rally together and support a unified front to help Immigration Canada perhaps keep him in Canada.”

Roughly two dozen people were in the gallery for the sentencing, including Gebru’s wife, who was inconsolable in the hallway after learning of her husband’s fate.

Cook said he will appeal the sentence because Gebru worries what could happen if he is deported.

“One of the concerns is that, if you’re going to be deported to a country where your life is in jeopardy, then there’s compassionate reasons,” Cook explained. “When he was a young man, he spoke up against the government, and he could potentially be regarded as a political threat in Ethiopia. He’ll have to prove it, and I don’t know how you would do that.”

Gebru will begin his sentence now and will wait for his appeal to be heard. If Immigration Canada decides to deport him, it would have to wait until Gebru’s sentence has been served.

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