British Columbia

Fort St. John man acquitted of terror charges

RCMP alleged that Othman Hamdan posted pro-ISIS materials to social media, but a judge found him not guilty on all four counts.

RCMP alleged that Othman Hamdan posted pro-ISIS materials to social media

Othman Hamdan, on his way into a bail hearing in Fort St. John on July 15, 2016. He has been acquitted on all charges. (Brett Hyde/CBC)

A Fort St. John B.C. man charged with terror offenses, including inciting murder, has been acquitted.

Othman Hamdan was charged with encouraging murder, assault and mischief for terrorist purposes.

He was also accused of inducing and instructing someone to carry out a terrorist act.

Hamdan was 33 and working as a construction contractor when he was arrested in Fort St. John in 2015.

RCMP scrutinized 85 Facebook posts published between 2014 and 2015 and alleged that Hamdan posted pro-ISIS material and celebrated advances made by the group.

The court also heard that Hamdan's posts praised lone wolf attacks on Parliament Hill and Quebec and that he published a how-to guide for carrying out attacks. 

But Hamdan, who plead not guilty to all four charges against him, argued that his posts were taken out of context, and that he used social media to "shine a light" on atrocities being carried out in the Middle East.

He said his posts constituted political satire and were attempts to explain why certain events were taking place, without endorsing them.

A life on the road

Hamdan, who described himself as a non-practicing Sunni Muslim, was born to Palestinian parents in Abu Dhabi and moved to the U.S. at the age of 18.

After 9/11, Hamdan was interrogated because his Saudi roommate was an aviation student.

He moved to Vancouver in 2001, saying he was facing discrimination in the U.S.

Hamdan was accepted as a refugee in B.C. in 2002. 

According to prominent members of the Fort St. John community, Hamdan led a relatively isolated life in the small town.

At the time of his arrest, the mayor of Fort St. John said he was virtually unknown to the community.

A spokesman for the Peace River Muslim Association said he had never met or even heard of Hamdan before police announced the charges, and that he had never visited the local mosque.

Because Hamdan is not a Canadian citizen, he may need to attend an immigration hearing.