First Canadian convicted of leaving to join terror group sent back to prison over threats

FILE PHOTO: Members of Somalia's al-Qaeda linked al Shabaab militia hold their weapons in Mogadishu, Somalia January 1, 2010. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

The first Canadian convicted of attempting to leave the country to join a terrorist group has been sent back to prison after allegedly threatening staff at the community home where he was living while taking part in a de-radicalization program.

In a decision released Tuesday, the Parole Board of Canada revoked Mohamed Hassan Hersi’s statutory release on the grounds the 35-year-old posed “an undue risk to society.”

Hersi was also caught with two cellphones hidden in the lining of a suitcase, a violation of his release conditions, according to the decision.

The decision means he must return to prison. He can reapply for conditional release in one year, the Parole Board said.

Read more: Toronto men caught with bomb-making manuals, al-Qaeda literature on phones, documents allege

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A former Toronto security guard, Hersi was arrested in 2011 while trying to board a plane at Pearson airport. The RCMP alleged he intended to join the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

Following his release from prison on Dec. 22, 2020, Hersi lived at a community residential facility, worked at a plant as a cleaner and participated in Project ReSet, a program designed to reform violent extremists.

But the Parole Board wrote in its decision that Hersi had threatened a staff member at his facility in August, allegedly saying he would “find the staff member and harm them.”

Although he was allowed to apologize and return to the facility, he again made comments to staff “interpreted as threatening,” allegedly saying he could make their lives hell and had “connections” to help him.

The Correctional Service of Canada recommended revoking his statutory release, which frees most offenders after they have served two-thirds of their sentences.

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At a hearing last week, Hersi “readily accepted responsibility for inappropriate actions and behaviours,” while insisting he had not intended to threaten staff.

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But the Parole Board said he had “no viable release plan” and had lost the support of corrections officials. It is their collective professional opinion that your risk will not be manageable on continued release.”

“Despite acknowledged positive performance for the better part of your statutory release, the Board believes your attitude and behaviour has deteriorated to the point where your risk can no longer be managed on statutory release.”

Read more: ISIS supporter who attacked at Canadian Tire store denied parole

First Canadian convicted of leaving to join terror group sent back to prison over threats - image

The decision is the latest in which the Parole Board has expressed concerns about risks posed by Canada’s growing number of offenders convicted of terrorism offences.

Hersi was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 10 years. Although he was the first to be convicted of trying to leave Canada to engage in terrorism, this offence has since been applied by authorities repeatedly, most recently against supporters of ISIS.

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Before he was let out of prison on statutory release 11 months ago, the Parole Board wrote that Hersi continued “to pose too high a risk for again becoming obsessed with Al-Shabaab or other jihadist organizations.”

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