Ontario man who tried to join ISIS to be released on time served since arrest 18 months ago

An Ontario man was handed a four-year sentence on Wednesday after admitting he travelled to Turkey in 2019 with the intention of crossing into Syria to join ISIS.

But Ikar Mao was to be released based on the 18 months he has already served in custody, after the court gave him credit for the time he was detained in Turkey and the “harsh” conditions he faced awaiting trial in Ontario.

The 23-year-old, who left Canada with his wife in June 2019, was also given 12 months of probation, must take counselling and is banned from possessing weapons.

“I don’t think that the public has anything at all to fear from Mr. Mao,” his lawyer Nader Hasan said following the sentencing in the Superior Court of Justice in Brampton, Ont.

Read more: RCMP preparing charges against Toronto IT worker who became ‘voice of ISIS,’ document reveals

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After downloading a guidebook on how to join ISIS, Mao flew to Tunisia with his wife Haleema Mustafa. The couple then made their way to southern Turkey.

On July 11, 2019, Mao sent an email to their families saying they were making “hijra,” a term that means migration but that was used by ISIS to refer to migration to the Islamic State.

The email prompted family to report them to the RCMP, and the couple were arrested by Turkish police not far from the Syrian border. They were held for three months and returned to Canada.

Click to play video: 'Guelph man charged with terrorism-related offences' Guelph man charged with terrorism-related offences
Guelph man charged with terrorism-related offences – Dec 6, 2019

Mao’s sentence was 49 months, but he was given 28 and a half months credit for the time he had spent in pre-trial custody, and an additional 18 months in recognition of the conditions of his detention.

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That reduced the time remaining in his sentence to zero, meaning he was eligible for release.

The judge said lockdowns, staff shortages and COVID-19 made his time awaiting trial more harsh. Mao was also given three months’ credit for the time he was detained in Turkey.

Federal prosecutors withdrew a second terrorism charge against him, and also stayed two terrorism charges against Mustafa, who has agreed to undergo counselling.

Piafsky told the court the charges were stayed because she played a “lesser role” in the “joint venture,” and said she does not appear to pose a threat, but if that changed, authorities would respond in an “appropriate manner.”

“In my view, this is the right result and it’s in the public interest,” her lawyer Faisal Mirza said, adding Mustafa did not admit to any wrongdoing and did not support violence.

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