Ottawa (AFP) – A Canadian man who was arrested in Turkey near its border with Syria, allegedly with propaganda videos from the extremist Islamic State group on his cell phone, was charged on Friday with terrorism offenses.
Ikar Mao, 22, is accused of participating in the activities of a terrorist group, and faces a separate charge of leaving Canada to do so. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Ontario man was arrested in July along with his wife and the pair were eventually repatriated. Both deny wanting to join the IS group, claiming they only wanted to live in a mainly Muslim country.
According to public broadcaster CBC, a Turkish court heard evidence about the IS materials allegedly uncovered in Mao’s phone, and that the couple left a letter for their families saying they planned to join IS.
The newlyweds returned to Canada in October after three months in Turkish custody.
At that time, Mao agreed to a curfew, electronic monitoring and curbs on his Internet access — at the behest of federal police.
The new charges lodged against him come after a national security investigation conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
According to the latest government data, four other Canadians have been successfully prosecuted for leaving or attempting to leave the country to join terrorist groups, out of 60 returnees.
Another 190 are estimated to be overseas engaged in extremist activity, said the 2018 threat report. Half of them are in Syria, Turkey or Iraq.
Ottawa has so far resisted pressure to repatriate Canadian fighters detained in Syria.
“The government is aware of some citizens currently detained in Syria but there is no legal obligation to facilitate their return,” Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, told AFP.
“We will not expose our consular officials to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world,” he added.