Releasing alleged ISIS supporter will put Canadians at risk, government officials argue

Seized ISIS flag in Palmyra, Syria, MARCH 26, 2016.

Canadians will be “put at risk” if alleged ISIS supporter Othman Ayad Hamdan is released from immigration detention in British Columbia, officials argued in an application filed in the Federal Court.

There is “clear and compelling evidence that irreparable harm will occur” if Hamdan is released and it is “in the public interest” to continue his detention, according to the document.

The government submitted the 21-page memorandum to the court in Vancouver after the Immigration and Refugee Board last week ordered officials to free Hamdan on 25 conditions.

The release conditions imposed by IRB member Geoff Rempel — which include a $2,000 bond and an internet ban — “fall well short of mitigating the danger to the public,” the officials argued.

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

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“The terms and conditions imposed by the member simply do not manage, or mitigate, the risk of release. The safety of the Canadian public will be put at risk if the stay is not granted.”

The submission also complained that Rempel had ordered Hamdan to live in Enderby, B.C., “despite the fact that Enderby is an 84 minute [sic] drive from the Revelstoke Dam, which the respondent had identified as an infrastructure target.”

A hearing has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 12 to decide whether Hamdan, 37, should remain in custody while the government appeals his release order.

A citizen of Jordan, Hamdan entered Canada in 2002 and was granted refugee status in 2004 after claiming his conversion to Christianity had put him at risk. He later moved to Fort St. John, B.C.

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Following the deadly October 2014 terrorist attacks in Quebec and Ontario, the RCMP identified Hamdan as having made “Facebook posts in support of ISIS,” according to the court submission.

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A judge found him not guilty of terrorism charges, but because he is a foreign citizen, the Canada Border Services Agency arrested him in 2017 to be processed for deportation.

In October 2018, the IRB ordered his deportation on the grounds he is a danger to security, ruling his online activities had served the ISIS “social media agenda,” encouraged attacks and “identified infrastructure in Canada which could be targets for attack.”

Though the IRB had repeatedly ruled against releasing him while his deportation case unfolded, last week Rempel ordered Hamdan freed to live with a longtime friend in the B.C. Interior.

READ MORE: Refugee board orders deportation of ISIS supporter who targeted Ontario bridge

The Federal Court temporarily halted his release on Aug. 2, but the CBSA is now asking the court to keep Hamdan locked up while it attempts to overturn the IRB release order.

The CBSA argued the IRB had erred by finding the bondsperson Hamdan wants to live with was appropriate, noting the two had been roommates when Hamdan made the online posts that led to his arrest.

“The bondsperson has said that, during this period, he and his friends called [Hamdan] the ‘Facebook jihadist ‘cause that’s all he did was just sit down on Facebook with his terrorist s—t,’” the submission argued.
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“It is clear that the presence of the bondsperson in the respondent’s life in 2014 and 2015 did not prevent the respondent from calling for ISIS inspired [sic] violence and from posting information that could be useful to those prepared to commit acts of terrorism in Canada and abroad.”

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The other residents of the home where Hamdan plans to reside, who include the bondsperson’s brother, fiancé and four children, have not indicated they agree to the living arrangement and understand the risks, the CBSA said.

The submission also alleges Hamdan had drawn an ISIS flag on his cell wall in 2017, and an RCMP threat evaluation that same year concluded there was a high risk he would “continue to post on the internet information for the purpose of inciting others to commit terrorist acts.”

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But Hamdan’s lawyer, Erica Olmstead, argued the CBSA was “essentially asking this court to reweigh the evidence and come to a different conclusion.”

In her submission to the court, Olmstead said Hamdan could be promptly rearrested if he breached his conditions.

She also wrote that the allegations against Hamdan related only to “things he’s said/written and thought “in past but that he had no history of violence.

Hamdan has been found to be at serious risk if removed to Jordan, she said, and could face “further lengthy and indeterminate detention if not released.”

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