A British Columbia man accused of threatening to join the so-called Islamic State and behead Canadians has fended off the RCMP’s attempts to subject him to a terrorism peace bond.
Khalid Ahmad Ibrahim was arrested in 2016 on the grounds the RCMP feared he would engage in terrorism for ISIS but a judge dismissed the case in a decision handed down this week.
In her ruling, Judge Therese Alexander of the Provincial Court in New Westminster, B.C., said the 41-year-old Iraqi-Canadian suffered from mental illness and the police evidence was not reliable.
“There is no suggestion on the evidence presented that there is any imminent possibility that the defendant may commit a terrorism offence, for the benefit of ISIS or otherwise,” she wrote.
“Such a conclusion is not reasonable on the totality of the evidence.”
Ibrahim still faces a charge of uttering threats to Canadians. He was also charged in December with breaching the conditions of his release over an incident at a Canadian Forces Base.
Ibrahim’s Vancouver lawyer David Ferguson said that following the court’s ruling, which was handed down on Tuesday, he would be speaking with the Crown about resolving the outstanding charges.
Ferguson had challenged the RCMP’s case for a peace bond as based on unreliable evidence tailored to fit the narrative that Ibrahim was a security threat.
He praised the judge’s ruling.
“It was a really courageous decision, I thought, on her part,” he said. “In the end, she made a decision that I think was really the right one and it wasn’t an easy decision to make.”
The RCMP declined to comment.
Police had been using terrorism peace bonds to impose strict conditions on suspected extremists, particularly since the deadly October 2014 attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa.
But the last time the RCMP obtained one was a year ago, against Tevis Gonyou-McLean of Ottawa. It was to expire on Friday. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said it was the last active terrorism peace bond.
Peace bonds are a controversial counter-terrorism tool, both because they limit the freedoms of suspects without formal charges and because they have proven ineffective.
In August 2016, Aaron Driver was shot dead by police outside his house in Strathroy, Ont., while leaving in a taxi to conduct a terrorist attack for ISIS. He was subject to a terrorism peace bond at the time but was still able to build a bomb and record a video pledging allegiance to ISIS.
According to a copy of the court ruling obtained by Global News, Ibrahim is an ethnic Kurd from northern Iraq who arrived in Canada in 2005 with his mother and three siblings. He is not religious.
He became a Canadian citizen in 2010, lives in New Westminster, and has worked periodically as a painter, but has also gone through periods of unemployment due to depression and undiagnosed mental health issues.
In 2015, he was apprehended twice under the Mental Health Act and was the subject of several police complaints, including what the judge called “non-specific musings about ISIS and wanting to harm Canadians.”
Two former roommates contacted police in 2016 and reported that Ibrahim “wanted to kill Canadian people by cutting off their heads and that he wanted to join ISIS,” the judge wrote.
He was also alleged to have mentioned joining ISIS at work. He was subsequently arrested in July 2016 for uttering threats but told police he struggled with depression and did not support ISIS.
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A police search of his cell phone, however, turned up images about ISIS activities in Syria, including “graphic pictures of beheadings and corpses, firearms, bombings and known terrorists.”
But police found no sign he had ever tried to communicate with ISIS or other terrorist groups, and health records indicated he suffered from “depression and possibly cannabis induced psychosis.”
The judge said police were right to investigate but cast doubt on the evidence, which was presented in court by an RCMP officer who had “taken no steps” to verify its credibility. She said the Crown had presented a “highly focused narrative” that ignored evidence inconsistent with its narrative.
“The criminal law is a blunt instrument,” she wrote. “There are other options which may be more effective to address mental health, poverty, cultural and social issues.”
The ruling follows two other blows for counter-terrorism police in B.C. Last September, a judge acquitted Othman Hamdan of four terrorism charges that stemmed from alleged social media posts supporting ISIS.
A B.C. judge also threw out the terrorism conviction of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody over a plot to detonate a pressure cooker bomb at the B.C. Legislature on Canada Day in 2013. The Crown has appealed the decision.
University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese said the court’s decision on Ibrahim’s peace bond turned on the quality of the evidence and whether the Crown could “take short cuts” by relying on documents instead of witnesses.
“The lesson is that, even with peace bonds, the Crown needs to supply witnesses whose testimony and credibility can be tested in court,” said Forcese, an expert on national security law.