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Toronto man who tried to join ISIS was freed a month after his release was declared an ‘undue risk’

Farah Nasser talks to Stewart Bell about a Toronto man whose potential release was declared an “undue risk” the month before he was released from prison.

A month before a Canadian convicted of trying to join ISIS was released from an Ontario prison in June, he was denied parole on the grounds he posed too great a risk, newly released records show.

On May 24, the Ontario Parole Board ruled that releasing Pamir Hakimzadah “would constitute an undue risk to society,” according to the documents obtained by Global News.

“The protection of society is paramount when the board considers parole,” the decision read.

Hakimzadah was released on June 28, having served roughly three years.

READ MORE: ‘Fulfilling the wishes of God’ — The inside story of a police investigation into a Toronto ISIS supporter

The Parole Board of Canada raised similar concerns in February, when Kevin Omar Mohamed was set for release the following month despite being rated a “high risk to public safety.”

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The Ontario man had been convicted of travelling to Syria to join an Al Qaeda faction, and on social media had encouraged attacks in the West.

In August, the Canada Border Services Agency likewise argued that Canadians would be “put at risk” if Othman Ayad Hamdan was released from custody while immigration officials tried to deport him for posting pro-ISIS content online.

Despite being under a deportation order as a danger to Canada’s security, the Jordanian citizen was freed from detention in September to live in Enderby, B.C., under a list of conditions.

Pamir Hakimzadah was sentenced in February for his 2014 attempt to join ISIS.
Pamir Hakimzadah was sentenced in February for his 2014 attempt to join ISIS.

Hakimzadah is now on probation and required to undergo de-radicalization counselling.

The 30-year-old Toronto resident had allegedly told a witness prior to his 2016 arrest that “all non-Muslims should be killed.” He was caught in Istanbul in 2014 as he was trying to make his way to Syria to join ISIS.

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After returning to Toronto, he told his family he would try to go back to Syria and that it would be “fulfilling the wishes of God to kill non-Muslims,” according to allegations presented at his bail hearing.

He was arrested on June 27, 2016 when he tried to board a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. He was initially charged with assault, but the RCMP later charged him with leaving Canada to participate in terrorism.

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

He pleaded guilty in February.

Prosecutors wanted him to serve six years but on Feb. 28, a judge sentenced him to four years and one month, saying he had taken responsibility for his actions and had been “a positive role model.”

After taking into account the time he had already spent in custody awaiting trial on the assault and terrorism charges, the judge sentenced him to an additional six months.

He was admitted to a maximum-security prison in Penetanguishene, Ont., in April and released just over two months later, after serving two-thirds of his remaining sentence.

Raqqa’s rebuild: How a Syrian city is attempting to recover following an ISIS occupation
Raqqa’s rebuild: How a Syrian city is attempting to recover following an ISIS occupation

But documents obtained by Global News under Ontario’s Freedom of Information legislation show his parole was denied just four weeks before he was let out.

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According to the documents — which took the government five months to release — Hakimzadah waived his right to a parole hearing, writing he “would prefer release in June due to supervision.”

But the parole board nonetheless considered his parole without his participation because he was eligible for release on May 29, after having served half his remaining sentence.

The board wrote in its decision that it had received “limited information” and “did not receive a police occurrence report. Therefore, the Board does not have the particulars of the applicant’s offences.”

Hakimzadah did not provide a release plan, it added.

“A professional assessment was completed for the applicant given the serious nature of his offences,” according to the decision.

“The applicant declined to participate in the clinical interview, and thus, there is no information available to the Board regarding his background, social history, substance use, or any mental health concerns or treatment concerns that need to be addressed.”

READ MORE: Canadian who tried to join terror group in Syria set for release from prison despite being ‘high risk to public safety’

Much of the board’s decision was blacked out prior to being released to Global News, but it noted Hakimzadah was serving a sentence for “an act of terror and indictable assault.”

“Given the above, the board is of the view that releasing the applicant on parole would constitute an undue risk to society, and would not contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the applicant’s reintegration into society,” it read.

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“Therefore, parole is denied.”

Under the terms of his probation, Hakimzadah cannot possess firearms or obtain a passport, and must undergo psychotherapy and meet weekly with an imam from the Risalah Foundation.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca