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Married couple accused of trying to join ISIS will be tried together without preliminary hearing

Haleema Mustafa and Ikar Mao will go straight to trial after federal officials ordered a preferred indictment
Click to play video 'U.S. charges two alleged ISIS members in deaths of Western hostages' U.S. charges two alleged ISIS members in deaths of Western hostages
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the National Security Division announced that the United States Justice Department had unsealed charges against two Islamic State militants from Britain, accusing them of carrying out a gruesome campaign of torture, beheadings and other acts of violence against Western hostages they had captured in Syria, including four Americans – Oct 7, 2020

An Ontario couple caught in Turkey last year, where they were allegedly trying to join the so-called Islamic State, will go straight to trial without a preliminary hearing, federal officials said Monday.

Haleema Mustafa and Ikar Mao will be tried together in the Ontario Superior Court, where they are scheduled to appear on Nov. 13, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada told Global News.

“Both accused are now on the same indictment as the Crown intends to have a single trial for both,” said Nathalie Houle, Prosecution Service spokesperson, after Mustafa made a brief court appearance.

She also said that on Oct. 14, 2020, the director of public prosecutions and the federal deputy attorney general had ordered a preferred indictment, which sends the case directly to trial.

Read more: Canadian ‘extremist travellers’ a significant concern, RCMP says after ISIS-related arrest

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A direct indictment can occur when “proceedings against the accused ought to be expedited to ensure public confidence in the administration of justice,” according to the PPSC website.

“The Crown is committed to bringing this matter to trial in a timely way, mindful of the current COVID-19 operating environment,” Houle said.

The married couple left Toronto in June 2019 and turned up in a city in southern Turkey about an hour from the Syrian border. They were detained and returned to Canada separately in October.

The RCMP arrested Mao, a resident of Guelph, on Dec. 6, 2019. Mustafa, a Markham resident, was arrested on Aug. 26.

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Terrorism charges against women are rare in Canada: expert – Aug 26, 2020

Both are charged with two counts of terrorism: participation in the activities of a terrorist group, and leaving Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group.

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“These charges stem from RCMP allegations that Ikar Mao travelled to Turkey to join the terrorist group ISIS in June 2019,” the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) said in a news release.

“At the time of Ikar Mao’s travel to Turkey, RCMP INSET believe he was accompanied by his wife, Haleema Mustafa, a 22-year-old from Markham, Ontario.”

They remain in custody.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca