VANCOUVER – Facebook posts that allegedly supported lone-wolf terrorist attacks were part of a mission to counter the western media’s propaganda machine against the Islamic State group, a British Columbia man says.
Othman Hamdan told an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Wednesday that mainstream journalists were reporting a one-sided account of a United States-led alliance of western and Middle Eastern countries that began air strikes against the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh, in August 2014.
“The alliance was being defeated,” the construction worker from Fort St. John told the board about his posts from early 2015, before he was arrested in July that year on charges of encouraging murder, assault and mischief for terrorist-related purposes, and for encouraging others to carry out a terrorist act.
Hamdan was acquitted following a trial in B.C. Supreme Court that focused on 85 Facebook posts but immigration officials then arrested him on grounds that he posed a danger to Canadians.
The board is now trying to determine whether he will be deported to Jordan over security risks. An RCMP officer from the force’s national security division has already testified Hamdan was becoming radicalized by the Islamic State group.
Hamdan sought refugee status in Canada after moving in July 2002 from the United States, where he said he studied electrical engineering and faced discrimination following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.
He said he had a right to discuss political views on Facebook, starting in 2014, when he used satire, parodies and cartoons to highlight the hypocrisy of western powers, including the United States, under then-president Barack Obama.
“Obama was saying, ‘I’m not going to put boots on the ground but he was slowly getting involved,’ ” Hamdan said.
He also blamed then-prime minister Stephen Harper for a lone-wolf attack in Ottawa in October 2014, saying “arrogant” policies led to bloodshed in Canada.
A March 2015 post promoted “killing methods such as slitting their throats or shooting using a silencer and killing using poison and killing by choking.”
Other posts also supported lone attackers using vehicles to run over people or to shoot from before making a quick escape.
His charter right to freedom of expression meant he didn’t do anything wrong, Hamdan said.
“While I was writing these pages I thought I was engaged in a political debate and I thought freedom of expression meant I didn’t have to explain every single word,” he said as his lawyer, Peter Edelmann, asked him about various posts.
In a May 2015 post, he wrote: #Islamic State. I am one of them.”
“It doesn’t mean I a member of ISIL,” Hamdan said, referring to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
He blamed “stupid Facebook” for suspending and then deleting his accounts over graphic violence, prompting him to repeatedly create new accounts and write a letter to Facebook, which amounted to an “intimidation attempt” that went “a little over the top,” he said.
“I was just reacting, angry at them and saying, ‘Look, you really didn’t have a reason to ban my account.’ “
“You’ll see us in your nightmares,” he said quoting the letter, adding he also suggested Facebook employees would be harmed.
Hamdan said his aim was to protect his rights and those of “hundreds, thousands” of others who may have had the same experience, though he believed he was among one per cent who actually retaliated.
— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version included a headline that said Facebook posts were propaganda for the Islamic State.