A Toronto man who travelled to Turkey in 2014 to join the so-called Islamic State pleaded guilty Tuesday to assaulting the witness who reported him to police.
Appearing in a Toronto courtroom, Pamir Hakimzadah admitted to the 2015 attack on the victim, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban.
Following the assault, the victim reported Hakimzadah to police in January 2016, prompting the RCMP to launch a national security investigation called Project Sachet.
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Initially, Hakimzadah was arrested for assault, assault causing bodily harm and threatening. But in April 2017, he was also charged under Canada’s leaving for terrorism law.
The 29-year-old former Ryerson University engineering student pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to a single count of leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activity.
At his sentencing hearing, which also began Tuesday, the Crown said it was seeking a six-year sentence, minus credit for the time he has served since his June 2016 arrest.
“He has accepted responsibility,” said the Crown counsel, Chris Walsh. But he said the fact Hakimzadah was intercepted by Turkish police before reaching Syria should not weigh in his favour.
Defence lawyer Luka Rados asked for a sentence of 3 years and seven months, which would effectively see Hakimzadah released almost immediately when the time he has already served is considered.
Rados said Hakimzadah, who was born in Toronto, was old enough to no longer be vulnerable to “toxic ideologies” but young enough to turn his life around.
A de-radicalization plan proposed by the defence called for him to receive religious counselling from an imam at the Risalah Foundation in Vaughn, Ont. He would also see a psychiatrist.
“I do take full responsibility,” Hakimzadah told the judge, adding he would abide by any conditions imposed on him and was looking forward to moving on with his life.
WATCH: Pamir Hakimzadah appears in Toronto court on terrorism-related charges
Hakimzadah is the latest Canadian convicted of ISIS-related terrorism, following the trials of Canadian Tire attacker Rehab Dughmosh and Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, who plotted attacks in New York.
Beginning in 2013, Hakimzadah began showing what an agreed facts statement called “increasingly radical Islamic beliefs. He spoke either in favour or defence of ISIS.”
Using a web browser that guarded his anonymity, he watched ISIS videos online. He also viewed a website that provided instructions on how to get into Syria.
In the statement of agreed facts, Hakimzadah admitted that in October 2014 he flew to Istanbul intending to cross into Syria and join ISIS but was turned in by a suspicious taxi driver.
After Turkish authorities deported him back to Canada in November 2014, he admitted to a witness that he had wanted to join the “fight for Allah” but got caught.
His family “did not share his views on ISIS,” the statement read.
Hakimzadah’s lawyer has submitted letters from family and friends that referred to him as a mentor who taught religion, Arabic and other subjects to children at a Toronto mosque.
“He is the backbone of his family,” one letter said.
But Walsh said none of the 17 letters acknowledged Hakimzadah’s violent extremist views, raising questions about any plan to de-radicalize him.
The sentence is scheduled to be handed down on Thursday.