Investigator warns that B.C. man acquitted of terror charges is no 'couch jihadist'

A judge may have acquitted Othman Ayed Hamdan of terror-related charges, but the RCMP expert who analyzed the B.C. man's Facebook postings insists they reveal a man bent on providing material support to ISIS.

RCMP expert says analysis of Othman Ayed Hamdan's Facebook posting revealed 'clear risk'

Othman Hamdan, who was acquitted of terrorism-related charges, shields his face from the media on his way into a bail hearing in Fort St. John after he was charged in 2016. (Brett Hyde/CBC)

A judge may have acquitted Othman Ayed Hamdan of terror-related charges, but the RCMP expert who analyzed the B.C. man's Facebook postings insists they reveal a zealot bent on providing support to ISIS.

Const. Tarek Mokdad testified Monday at Hamdan's immigration admissibility hearing.

He said he wrote two lengthy reports after poring through 85 postings which pointed out vulnerable Canadian infrastructure and cheered deadly so-called "lone-wolf" attacks.

"In those posts, there are many of them that I saw resemble clear support of the Islamic State," Mokdad said.

"Furthermore, this support crossed the threshold where he's providing advice. He's providing material support. He's providing how-to information."

A danger to Canadian security?

The admissibility proceedings are taking place in a small Immigration and Refugee Board hearing room where Hamdan and his lawyer are seated at a desk to one side of representatives of the Canada Border Services Agency.

Last fall, a B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Hamdan of encouraging murder, assault and mischief for terrorist-related purposes, as well as inducing and instructing someone to carry out a terrorist act.

The 35-year-old construction contractor argued that his posts were taken out of context and claimed he used social media to "shine a light" on atrocities being carried out in the Middle East.

An RCMP analyst claims he concluded Othman Ayed Hamdan posed a risk as a supporter of ISIS after reviewing his Facebook posts. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The judge at his trial ruled that while Hamdan's comments might have been offensive, they didn't amount to the incitement of terrorism.

Despite his acquittal, Hamdan still faces the possibility of removal from Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for allegedly being a danger to the security of the country.

Originally from Jordan, he came to Canada as a refugee via the United States, where he moved after the World Trade Centre attacks of Sept. 11. 2001.

'What's going on here?'

Mokdad testified through video link from London, Ont. He said neither of his reports was entered into evidence at Hamdan's trial.

But he insisted that he formed his opinion after devoting attention to the context of Hamdan's posts, as well as the words themselves.

He gave as one example a post which mentions a dam in Revelstoke. In another, he said Hamdan called for "lone-wolf attacks" and in yet another gave information about the cost of explosives and weapons.

"When I come to the conclusion at the end, it's not just because I think it and I feel it. No, it's based on evidence," he said.

"You gotta ask yourself, what's going on here?"

An RCMP analyst claims Othman Ayed Hamdan's Facebook posts reveal a man who was actively supporting the terrorism of ISIS. (The Associated Press)

A 14-year RCMP veteran, Mokdad said he has spent his entire career in the field of national security, developing an in-depth knowledge of militant jihadist groups in North Africa and the Middle East.

He is fluent in both English and Arabic and has provided testimony on both jihadism and militant jihadism in courtrooms across Canada. But Hamdan's is his first immigration proceeding.

'Just basically a big mouth?'

Mokdad provided a history of the rise of ISIS in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on what he said was "a pack of lies."

He said the use of social media — and particularly Facebook — is crucial to ISIS. But Mokdad said it's important to distinguish between "couch jihadists" who "talk big" and real threats.

"Are they going to cross the threshold?" he asked. "Or are they just basically a big mouth, so to speak."

He sparred with Hamdan's lawyer, who suggested that the officer had formed his opinions on "snippets" of information without having access to the entirety of his client's Facebook profile.

He also rejected a comparison to the posts of a Washington-based academic who posts ISIS propaganda as part of a research project.

Even as an undercover operative, Mokdad said he would need special permission to post the same kind of material.

"If I were to make such a post, I would require the minister of public safety for approval," he said. "When you post a video like that, it is breaking the law."

In January, Hamdan filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the provincial and federal government, claiming he was maliciously prosecuted in violation of his Charter rights.

He remains in immigration custody, which he cites in his notice of civil claim as unlawful incarceration.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.