Montrealer repatriated from Syria is charged with terrorism

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La Montré alaise repatriated from Syria is charged with terrorism

The al-Roj camp in northeastern Syria, where 2,660 people, including Canadians, are being held

Montrealer Oumaima Chouay was formally charged with terrorism on Wednesday after arriving on Canadian soil following a repatriation operation orchestrated by the federal government. She had left the country eight years ago to join the Islamic State armed group in Syria and had been in the sights of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) ever since.

Ms. Chouay, 27, was arrested last night upon arrival at Montreal-Trudeau airport. RCMP said in a statement that they have been under investigation by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) for more than eight years.

As a result of this investigation, terrorism charges were laid against Ms. Chouay, a native of Pierrefonds. She now faces four counts under the Criminal Code, including participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

After her arrest, she appeared Wednesday afternoon by videoconference at the Montreal courthouse. She will be back in court on Friday. The Crown opposed her release based in part on the risk of her not appearing in court.

Inspector David Beaudoin, the officer in charge of the INSET in Montreal, explained that Ms. Chouay left her home in Quebec at the age of 19 to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State (IS) armed group. In Syria, it is alleged that she participated in terrorist activities on behalf of ISIS. In November 2017, she was taken prisoner by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Inspector Beaudoin added that Ms. Chouay stayed more than five years in the al-Roj camp, under the control of the Kurds, until her return to Canada. She will remain detained for further legal proceedings, he said.

As for Ms. Chouay's two children born in Syria, the inspector explained that the RCMP ensured that they were taken into care by a CIUSSS. Requests to the family and relatives of the children have also been made so that they benefit from immediate supervision. Their situation has been an ongoing concern for RCMP investigators in this case, he said.

A total of two women and two children were repatriated during this operation. Canada thanks the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria for its cooperation and acknowledges its efforts to provide care to those detained in an extremely difficult security situation and in adverse circumstances, wrote Global Affairs Canada in a statement.

Although it is unclear what role Canada played in the repatriation of the four Canadians, the department indicated that the United States also participated in this operation.

The second woman to return home is Canadian Kimberly Polman, 50, who was featured in the documentary The Return : Life after ISIS (The Return : Life After ISIS). She was detained for three years in al-Roj detention camp, located in northeast Syria.

She claimed she ended up in a horrible place after being recruited online by an ISIS member who later became her husband. She was arrested in 2019 by Kurdish fighters.

Canadian Kimberly Polman

Her lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, told the microphone of Tout un matin, on the airwaves of ICI Première, that Ms. Polman passed through the Montreal airport on Wednesday morning, where she would have been charged under section 810 of the Criminal Code. She pledged under court order not to disturb the public peace. She is now on her way to Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Me Greenspon indicated that his client was repatriated for medical reasons due to the difficult living conditions in the Syrian camps. She suffers from physical and mental problems, he said.

The lawyer pointed out that Ms. Polman is eligible for a new government policy adopted in 2021 by Global Affairs Canada to for people who cannot be treated in Syria for life-threatening health conditions.

When asked whether Canada would only repatriate seriously ill people held in camps in Syria, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said that the circumstances are different in each case.

If Canadians travel abroad and commit a criminal act, they are sometimes subject to the laws and regulations of the country where they are, he said. In some cases, we have to manage situations where the circumstances on the ground may become untenable for different reasons.

Minister Fraser, however, indicated that the government is closely monitoring what is happening in the camps in Syria to ensure that if people return to Canada after committing a flagrant criminal act, they are held accountable by legal authorities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not comment on a specific case, but said supporting terrorism is a crime in Canada.

“Anyone who traveled for the purpose of supporting terrorism should face criminal charges.

—Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Canada has already made it known that it will not provide consular assistance to those detained in camps run by Kurdish forces, even though a number of other Western countries have. done, like France, which last week repatriated 40 children and 15 women from Syria. The federal government has explained this position on security grounds.

Still, Lawyer Greenspon – who represents 23 Canadian men, women and children still detained in camps or prisons in northeast Syria – sees the repatriation of the four Canadians as hope for other citizens to return. at their home. This operation demonstrates that the government can repatriate them whenever it wants.

For France-Isabelle Langlois, director general of the French-speaking Canada division of Amnesty International, Canada should organize the return of all its nationals, men, women and children, who are in detention camps in Syria.

According to international law and also according to Canadian law, everyone has the right to a fair and equitable trial, she said in an interview on RDI. Given that, on the spot, we are not able to carry out fair and equitable trials, Ottawa should therefore proceed with all the repatriations.

The director declared that if these returnees are found guilty of the charges against them, they will receive the sentences appropriate to their crimes. It would also be a way of doing justice to all the people who have been victims of the actions of IS.

Ms. Langlois reminded that children also have the right to return and family reunification. They are ticking time bombs if left to live in these camps. According to an estimate by Human Rights Watch in March 2021, at least 23 Canadian children – most under the age of six – remained in detention camps in Syria.

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