Online ISIS supporter deemed a danger to Canada ordered released from custody

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) . Courtesy: CBSA

A Jordanian man who has been declared a danger to Canada’s security for spreading ISIS propaganda on the internet is being released from custody to live in rural B.C. while the government tries to deport him.

Immigration and Refugee Board Member Geoff Rempel ordered the release of Othman Hamdan on Friday afternoon, rejecting the Canada Border Service Agency’s concerns that he is a risk to national security.

While Rempel acknowledged the release involved “a level of danger to the public,” he said it was less than in other cases and Hamdan had no history of committing violence in Canada.

He imposed more than two dozen conditions on Hamdan, including that he not drive or possess weapons or electronic devices capable of accessing the Internet. He must also not make any social media posts or have contact with ISIS.

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The 37-year-old, who was found to have served the ISIS “social media agenda” and encouraged attacks in Canada, had asked to be released to live in Enderby, a small town in the B.C. Interior.

Hamdan promised to refrain from posting on the internet and attend counseling in nearby Vernon. He will live in a basement room in the home of a friend, who agreed to post a $2,000 bond.

His lawyer argued the conditions would eliminate any risks, but a CBSA official opposed freeing Hamdan and noted Enderby was less than 90 minutes from the Revelstoke Dam, one of the targets he had named.

Randal Hyland said the dam was “specifically identified as a potential target for a terrorist attack” in Hamdan’s Facebook posts, and was only a “relatively short drivable distance from Enderby.”

The casket of warrant officer Patrice Vincent leaves the church after funeral services November 1, 2014 in Longueuil, Quebec. On social media, Othman Hamdan allegedly called Vincent’s killer a “hero.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The proposal to release Hamdan to a “remote location” far from a CBSA office that could monitor him was “woefully inadequate” and did not include any plan for deradicalization, Hyland argued.

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The case — unfolding as the government has vowed to crack down on online extremist content — involves the fate of an Abu Dhabi-born Jordanian citizen who came to Canada in 2002 and was granted refugee status.

Following the October 2014 terror attacks in Quebec and Ontario, the RCMP identified Facebook messages by Hamdan that a Mountie said had demonstrated “clear support” for ISIS.

“Mr. Hamdan identified infrastructure in Canada which could be targets for attack. He encouraged lone wolves in the West who could not travel abroad to carry out attacks at home,” the IRB ruled.

“He shared a detailed how-to manual for lone wolves to follow in serving the terrorist agenda of the Islamic State. Additionally, many posts appear to be recruitment initiatives.”

Although a B.C. judge found him not guilty of terrorism charges in 2017, Hamdan is not a Canadian citizen and has been detained since September 2017 by immigration authorities who want to deport him back to Jordan.

The IRB ordered his deportation in October 2018, ruling he is a danger to the security of Canada, and a Federal Court judge later called him “an unmitigated liar.

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The bondsperson Hamdan will live with is a former co-worker who was his roommate when he made some of the online posts that led to his arrest. The bondsperson is self-employed and said he worked 40 to 60 hours a week.

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He testified that Hamdan could accompany him to job sites, or his fiancé could watch him while he was at work. He said he would not give Hamdan the password to the wi-fi at his rented home.

“I find that under the supervision of the bondsperson, he’s going to have little opportunity to incite violence online or for that matter to plan and carry out any attack of his own,” the IRB member ruled.

The CBSA asked the IRB to impose house arrest, electronic monitoring and pre-approval of all visitors to the home, but the Member declined to do so, instead putting in place a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m.

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It was unclear exactly when he would be released.

The Nipigon River Bridge, which the Immigration and Refugee Board said Othman Ayed Hamdan had identified as an infrastructure target for his Facebook followers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

In his testimony, Hamdan acknowledged that some of his online posts “could be interpreted as implicit threats,” but denied he was a security risk. “I actually find it laughable, I’m not a violent person at all.”

He also denied his posts supported ISIS or promoted terrorism. “I did not support the Islamic State. I supported some of its actions in protection of the Sunnis,” he said.

He said he had been cleared of the charges against him but was now on “death row” because he believes he will be killed if he is returned to Jordan.

“I’m an innocent man in jail,” he said.

Appearing at the proceedings by video conference, Hamdan twice left the hearing to meditate in his cell, saying the testimony had triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder.

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