As part of a national criminal investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have nabbed a suspected ISIS volunteer.
According to at least one terrorism expert, it may be the first time Canada has charged anybody when they returned to Canada after traveling for the express purpose of joining a terrorist organization.
As part of Project Sachet, a comprehensive police investigation that first began in January 2016, the RCMP arrested a Toronto man Wednesday and charged him for leaving Canada with the intention of hooking up with ISIS.
Pamir Hakimzadah is accused of traveling to Turkey in the fall of 2014 and attempting to join ISIS with the intention of participating in terrorist activity.
Turkish police detained Hakimzadah before sending him back to Canada.
The RCMP has not released a lot of details about this case, or any others affecting Project Sachet, but they did say the Toronto Police Service was of assistance in catching Ha as dewas returned to Canada after being detained by Turkish authorities.
Hakimzadah is expected to appear in court Thursday.
Though the RCMP are playing down concerns about an imminent security threat to public safety, at the same time the Mounties are asking citizens to “remain vigilant” in the fight against terrorism and to report any information relating to potential terrorist activity or any suspicious activity to the National Security Information Network.
Phil Gurski, a terrorism expert and former analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), says this is the first time that Canada has charged an individual after they have left the country for an allegedly terrorist purpose and then returned — or been sent back.
In the past, suspects have been caught before they got on the aircraft but Gurski told CBC News that “this is the first one that I’m aware of someone who is returning, or in this case, having been returned by an allied service, i.e. the [Turkish authorities].”
Under current legislation that was passed in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, police can charge people who leave or attempt to leave Canada with the intent of committing a terrorist act or joining a terrorist organization.
Any terrorist acts the individual commits outside of Canada are liable for prosecution as are any efforts made to facilitate terrorism in another country.
“People who’ve returned to date, to the best of my knowledge, no one has been charged with a terrorism offense. Some have been charged with passport fraud or misrepresentation,” said Gurski.
“This in fact might set legal precedent in this country.”