British Columbia

Release of man who praised ISIS on social media delayed again

Othman Hamdan is facing another hurdle in his quest to be released from jail after an immigration adjudicator said he could be. The Federal Court has ordered he remain detained pending a judicial review of the order to release him.

B.C. resident Othman Hamdan arrested for supporting ISIS in 2017 had been ordered released Aug. 2

Othman Hamdan, shields his face from the media on his way into a bail hearing in Fort St. John in July 2016. (Brett Hyde/CBC)

Othman Hamdan is facing another hurdle in his quest to be leave jail after an immigration adjudicator granted his release on Aug. 2.

The Federal Court has ruled in the government's favour, ordering Hamdan remain detained pending a judicial review of the directive to release him.

The Fort St. John resident was previously charged with inciting violence after postings on social media praised the terrorist group ISIS. 

Hamdan was acquitted in September 2017 of three terrorism charges, but immediately after his acquittal, immigration officials arrested him on grounds that he poses a danger to Canadians and ordered him held pending his deportation.

Immigration and Refugee board member G. Rempel had ruled over 10 days ago that it was not right to keep detaining Hamdan and said he should be released into the custody of a friend in Enderby, B.C., on 26 conditions.

The conditions include regular reporting to the Canada Border Services Agency, a curfew, keeping the peace, maintaining good conduct, not possessing weapons, not driving  or having access to the internet and not commenting or posting on social media. 

He is also not to associate with anyone with any connection to ISIS.

Denis Gascon, the federal court judge who granted the government's request to stay Hamdan's release noted in hearings Monday the B.C. resident has faced nearly two dozen detention reviews. 

In Facebook posts made four years ago, Hamdan is alleged to have advocated lone-wolf attacks and praised ISIS. 

Hamdan has argued he both praised and criticized the terrorist organization.  

He has said his Facebook posts highlighted the one-sided account of Western journalists reporting on a United States-led alliance of countries that began air strikes against the Islamic State group in August 2014.

He says he merely used his right to freedom of expression to post his views against Western powers, including "stupid Facebook," which suspended and then deleted his accounts, citing graphic violence.

Hamdan was ordered deported to Jordan but that was halted when the government's own witness admitted it would be dangerous for him to be sent there. 

Lawyers representing the government say Hamdan should be kept in jail because he is an "angry and aggrieved individual" who "does not identify with Canadian values," and is a danger to the public.

Hamdan's lawyer Erica Olmstead told Gascon Monday that her client thought he was exercising his right to free speech under the Canadian Charter. 

She also said he has never been convicted of any criminal offence and the perceived danger was based on four-year-old Facebook posts.

After the federal court decision on Tuesday, she told the CBC in an email it was unfortunate that the Immigration Division's order has been stayed ..."given that ... with the conditions it would be imposing ... Mr. Hamdan would not pose a danger to the community, and as an expert tribunal, it's best placed to make this assessment." 

There are publication bans in this case that prohibit showing images of Hamdan and any details about his family members.

With files from Canadian Press