By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – A Canadian who was arrested and released by Turkey was to appear in court Friday charged with terrorist-related activities.
There is a publication ban on the court proceedings, but it is known that Ikar Mao, 22, was charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Friday, with one count of participation in a terrorist group and one of leaving Canada to participate in the group. If convicted, Mao faces a maximum sentence of 10 years on each charge.
The RCMP said in a statement that Mao, who resides near Toronto, was charged “following a national security investigation.”
Authorities also said that the protection of Ontario residents in the Toronto area was the overriding concern.
“I want to reassure the citizens of the Greater Toronto Area and all Canadians that our primary focus is the safety and protection of the public at all times,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Michael LeSage said in the statement.
Mao and his wife were arrested by Turkish authorities near the Syrian border in the summer.
They were released after being held for three months and the newlywed couple returned to Canada in October.
A Turkish court heard that Mao had received encrypted Daesh videos on his phone and that the couple left behind a letter telling their families that they had gone to join Daesh.
Mao said the letter was misinterpreted, saying that the couple had left because they wanted to live in a Muslim country. As well, he said the videos were unsolicited and must have been downloaded inadvertently while he was surfing the internet.
A Canadian court ruled a few weeks ago that Mao, who presented a “fear of terrorism offence,” could be released on bail but had to abide by a curfew and also had to wear a GPS monitor.
The evidence against Mao is not known because of the publication ban.