VANCOUVER: The Facebook posts of a British Columbia man acquitted of terrorism-related charges clearly show he wasn’t just a “couch jihadist” with a big mouth but someone who was becoming radicalized by the Islamic State group and advocating for lone wolf attacks, an RCMP officer has testified.
Const. Tarek Mokdad of the force’s national security division told an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Monday that he was involved in the investigation of Othman Hamdan before his arrest in Fort St. John, B.C., in 2015.
Mokdad said he wrote a report in 2015 based on the history of Islamic extremism and jihad and another last year on 85 of Hamdan’s Facebook posts.
He referenced both reports at the hearing and said he testified at Hamdan’s trial in B.C. Supreme Court, but the reports were not entered as evidence at the proceedings.
Hamdan is a Jordanian national who was granted refugee status in Canada after moving from the United States following the September 2001 attacks but now the Immigration and Refugee Board is considering whether his posts represent a security risk to Canada and if he should be deported.
Mokdad read numerous posts authored by Hamdan, who also used at least one alias on Facebook.
“I get it from the horse’s mouth,” he said of Hamdan’s posts, adding the man was buying into the cause of the Islamic State with his unwavering support for the group using violence, versus someone who would simply be reading propaganda online and not acting on it.
“They talk big but they don’t do anything,” said Mokdad, who was testifying via video from London, Ont.
He read his Arabic translation of two posts from the second report and said Hamdan discussed infrastructure in Canada, including a dam in Revelstoke, B.C., and the Nipigon River Bridge near Nipigon, Ont., suggesting they were weak targets.
Mokdad said it’s common for Islamic State supporters to identify areas susceptible or open to attack.
“This is something that they never bothered to talk about in court because they never bothered to look at the report,” he said.
Mokdad said many of Hamdan’s posts used a flag adopted by the Islamic State in 2007 as well as a banner and other symbols the group employs to try and legitimize its political and religious agenda.
He said the Islamic State has used Facebook as a podium to spread its propaganda, which is “open literally to everyone on this planet” and often shared by attaching trending hashtags unrelated to the topic.
“Islamic State supporters don’t need to go anywhere but their couch,” Mokdad said, calling the online practices of the Islamic State “the invasion of Facebook.”
Hamdan’s posts clearly indicated he provided advice, support and how-to information on conducting lone wolf attacks by using various methods including a car, a knife and poison, though he didn’t author the post about weapons, Mokdad said.
“He called for lone-wolf attacks. He called for them plainly and clearly.”
Mokdad also suggested Hamdan became part of the Islamic State’s “media team” after he’d received an invitation to “migrate” to the group.
Hamdan’s lawyer, Peter Edelmann, suggested it’s not uncommon for material promoting the Islamic State to be posted online and that it’s regularly featured on a site called Jihadology.net.
However, Mokdad said the site is operated by a reputable think tank providing education and analysis on how to fight radical behaviour, not akin to what Hamdan posted on Facebook about wishing to be a soldier and martyr of the Islamic State.
“This is not just nefarious. This says to me it’s somebody who’s got leanings towards the Islamic State,” he said.
The Canadian government lists the Islamic State group as a terrorist entity, saying its tactics include suicide attacks, using vehicles and improvised explosive devices, armed attacks, hostage takings and videotaped beheadings.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge who acquitted Hamdan last September said the man’s posts may have been offensive but they didn’t constitute terrorism. Hamdan has been detained since his acquittal after the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled his release would endanger the public.
In January, Hamdan filed a lawsuit against the B.C. and federal governments, arguing his charter rights were violated through a malicious prosecution.
Denise Reid, a lawyer representing Public Safety Canada, told the hearing that sheriffs photographed drawings in Hamdan’s cell of a symbol used by the Islamic State group and one of several he’d included in his Facebook posts.