An Ontario man has been arrested on a terrorism peace bond after returning from Turkey, and has been released on a long list of conditions including that he not espouse extremism, Global News has learned.
Ikar Mao, 22, was arrested at his home in Guelph on Nov. 10 over fears that he would participate in the activities of a terrorist group, according to documents filed at the Brampton courthouse.
It’s the latest case of what the court documents describe as a “fear of terrorism offence.” Canadian counter-terrorism law allows the police to ask the courts to impose bail-like restrictions on the conduct of terrorism suspects without formally charging them with a crime.
Mao is currently the only person in Canada facing a terror peace bond. The last active terror-related peace bond expired in May.
Mao and his wife were arrested in Turkey in July while they were on vacation and driving along the Syrian border on suspicions they were trying to join the Islamic State, the CBC reported.
The couple was released after three months in custody without any criminal charges.
“It is particularly bizarre because the idea of travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, in 2019, makes little sense because they control no territory,” Amarnath Amarasingam, a Queen’s University professor who specializes in foreign fighters, told Global News.
“The border regions are under the control of Kurdish forces, and thousands of their fighters are in prison. I have a lot of questions about what he was planning to do.”
While awaiting his peace bond hearing, Mao has been released on $20,000 worth of bonds and has agreed to abide by 19 bail conditions, including that he surrender his passport, remain in Ontario, wear a GPS ankle bracelet at all times, does not communicate “with anyone who is involved in or supports terrorist activity as defined in the Criminal Code,” and does not “possess any object with the logo of a listed terrorist entity.”
However, Mao is permitted to access the internet for the purposes of conducting his business, which is only described by the court documents as involving “buying and selling products online.”
The court documents do not state a specific terrorist entity or activity.
On his profile on couchsurfing.com, Mao wrote that he was travelling through Turkey with his wife. “We want to move here soon, especially in Sanliurfa, because both Turkish and Arabic are spoken here,” the profile reads.
When reached by phone on Monday evening, one of Mao’s sureties, listed on court documents as Taha Mao, would not tell Global News whether Mao was currently residing with him and would not comment on the situation.
Mao’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It’s illegal to attempt to leave Canada to join in terrorism-related activities, and the RCMP has sought terror peace bonds in cases where there is insufficient evidence to lay formal criminal charges.
Mao is currently the only person in Canada facing a terror-related peace bond, and there have not been any active peace bonds for months.
Leah West, a national security law expert at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said that the fact that Mao has returned to Canada from Turkey and has not been charged with a crime is telling.
“We’ve seen such charges arise in the past where Canadians have been detained in Turkey and returned to Canada. Canadian and Turkish officials have shared information of that sort in the past,” West said.
“There may be reason to believe that he did not originally leave Canada with the intent to facilitate terrorism. Rather, this may have been something that manifested more fully in the months he was abroad.”
Mao’s next court date is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Brampton.