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Drug runner sentenced

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 03/03) - A Yellowknife drug runner caught with more than $65,000 worth of cocaine will spend the next two years less a day in jail.

Ismael Khalil Dawood Al-Azawi was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to trafficking in a controlled substance on the eve of his Supreme Court trial.

"The illegal cocaine trade... is like a plague that has infected the fabric of our communities," said Justice Ted Richard.

The sentence means Al-Azawi will serve the time in jail, most likely the Yellowknife Correctional Centre, instead of a federal penitentiary. He has already spent more than nine months in custody.

Police nabbed the 42-year-old after his car careened off the highway near Enterprise on Dec. 22, 2002. A subsequent investigation led police to recover 541 grams of crack-cocaine hidden in the car's air vents.

Prosecutors say Al-Azawi was transporting the drugs to Yellowknife from Alberta at the time of his arrest.

Al-Azawi, a native Iraqi who immigrated to Canada in 1996, faces an uncertain future following his release.

"This conviction will put into doubt his right to remain in this country," said Justice Ted Richard.

The man's lawyer, James Mahon, said his client moved to Yellowknife in 2002 to work in the construction business, but was soon lured into the drug trade.

Richard, however, was unsympathetic.

"He was simply motivated by greed," he responded.

Crown Attorney John Burke also asked that Al-Azawi's car be seized but Richard suspended judgement until both sides have a chance to argue the motion later this week.