Politics

Toronto-area woman arrested on terrorism charges after travel to Turkey

Haleema Mustafa, a Toronto-area woman, has been arrested over allegations she left Canada to join a terrorist group, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada confirmed Wednesday.

Haleema Mustafa and her husband left Canada in 2019, allegedly to join the Islamic State in Syria

Haleema Mustafa has been arrested on two terrorism-related charges. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Haleema Mustafa, a Toronto-area woman, has been arrested over allegations she left Canada to join a terrorist group, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada confirmed Wednesday.

Mustafa has been charged with two terrorism-related offences and will appear in court either Thursday or Friday, a spokesperson for the service said. Global News first reported Mustafa had been arrested by police in Markham, Ont.

Mustafa is accused of leaving Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group pursuant to section 83.181 of the Criminal Code and under section 83.18, which forbids participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

A spokesperson for the RCMP said they would not comment on the arrest until tomorrow.

In December 2019, Mustafa's husband, Ikar Mao, was also charged with two terrorism offences and remains in custody after being denied bail. Many of the details of Mao's case are covered by a court-ordered publication ban.

The couple left Toronto in June 2019 bound for Turkey. According to Turkish records reviewed by CBC, they were arrested because of fears they were attempting to join the Islamic State in neighbouring Syria.

The two were detained by Turkish authorities in Sanliurfa, a border town that once served as a launch point for foreign nationals looking to cross into Syria to join the Islamic State.

Ikar Mao, pictured, and his wife Haleema Mustafa have been in Turkish custody since July, according to the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. (Ikar Mao/Couchsurfing.com)

The Islamic State has suffered a series of military setbacks in recent years as a coalition of Western nations and armed fighters in Iraq and Syria has helped to dismantle much of the group's so-called "caliphate."

On a website for travellers looking for free accommodation, Mao had written that he and his wife wanted to travel to the region to learn Turkish and Arabic.

The previous Conservative government amended the Criminal Code in 2013 to make it a crime to travel or attempt to travel abroad to participate in acts of terrorism.

With files from the CBC's Jason Ho, Katie Nicholson

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