Federal officials in Vancouver are moving ahead with efforts to deport a Jordanian man over his social media posts, which support the so-called Islamic State and “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, a hearing heard Wednesday.
Appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) representative said a hearing to revoke Othman Ayed Hamdan’s refugee status had been scheduled for April 6.
A second hearing to decide whether Hamdan is a danger to Canada’s security was to begin May 14, CBSA official Randall Hyland said. Further hearings alleging he is a member of a terrorist organization could follow.
In the meantime, the Refugee Board ordered Wednesday that Hamdan should remain in custody, saying that if he were released he would likely continue his online incitement.
“In your postings you have advocated for lone wolves to rise up and take action. You have celebrated terrorist activity and for these reasons I found that you present a future and present danger in Canada,” the IRB ruled.
The developments suggest that immigration officials are making efforts to ensure Hamdan, who was accepted as a refugee after he arrived at the British Columbia border from Washington State in 2002, does not remain in Canada.
A resident of Fort St. John, B.C., Hamdan was acquitted of terrorism charges in September. But because he is not a Canadian citizen, immigration enforcement authorities then arrested him for possible deportation.
Hamdan’s immigration proceedings had been taking place behind closed doors but Global News successfully fought the publication ban. In a decision Tuesday, the IRB ruled that “due to the large amount of information already in the public domain” about Hamdan, his hearings would be held in public.
“Having these hearings in public is jeopardizing my safety, in the future as well, here and abroad,” Hamdan, appearing from Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge, B.C., said at the start of Wednesday’s detention hearing.
Like the unsuccessful terrorism prosecution against him, his immigration troubles stem from dozens of messages he posted on Facebook in 2014 and 2015. In one, the attacker who fatally rammed an unarmed soldier with a car in Quebec in October 2014 was described as a “real hero.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, the CBSA argued that a civil suit Hamdan had filed against the government in January showed he was neither remorseful nor intended to “restrict his behaviour.”
“In Mr. Hamdan’s mind, I submit, he has done nothing wrong,” Hyland said.
Hamdan’s lawyer Peter Edelmann said his client had already been prosecuted and acquitted. “If Mr. Hamdan was a Canadian citizen he would be out, able to pursue the same activities that he was pursuing in terms of his speech.”
In addition to opening Hamdan’s case to the public, the IRB also agreed to a request by Global News to release transcripts of his previous closed-door hearings. During one, Hamdan called the proceedings against him “a violation of my rights,” a “modern-day witch hunt,” and “modern-day McCarthyism.”
The transcripts also show that at a Dec. 13 hearing, the IRB adjudicator read out several of his social media posts that she said “satisfy me that on a balance of probabilities that those posts would likely encourage violence against Canadians.”
- “#Islamic State. I am one of them.”
- “Let’s stay here and bring the fight to their towns.”
- “We will stay here to convert the sheep to ISIS. … We will work toward wiping out everyone.”
- “Lone wolves we salute you.”
“They quite satisfy me that the nature of your posts, on a balance of probability, are likely to encourage others to commit violence against Canadians,” the IRB wrote.
Hamdan countered that his posts had been incorrectly translated, taken out of context and were not incitement.
“I’m an innocent person that is sitting in jail based on mere allegations and on charges that I’ve been acquitted of,” he said.
His next detention hearing was scheduled for March 7.