Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Another One Down, More To Go ...

"[I want] to do as much as I can to help the Islamic State, in all ways, financially, physically or dying for them -- whatever they need."
"We [Islamist jihadists] love death like you love life."
Ismael Habib, Canadian citizen, Quebec
Facebook/Files - Ismael Habib found guilty of attempting to travel to Syria to commit terrorism

"Did Ismael Habib intend to participate in or knowingly contribute to a terrorist activity? The entirety of the evidence demonstrates the answer is yes."
"There is no doubt in the present case that the intention to leave Canada is implicitly conceded elsewhere (in the evidence) by the accused."  
"The court concludes that even though he wanted to join his wife and children ... his goal was to go and fight with IS."
Quebec Court Judge Serge Delisle

"My reaction was very, very positive, in fact I was quite thrilled. I thought it showed a few things: First and foremost that the Canadian justice system does take terrorism and the threat of terrorism seriously."
‚Äč"The evidence stands the court's test and it can be used to get a conviction."
"You're trying to determine what the person's actual intent and capability are. I think that's a very, very valid police tool ('Mr. Big' sting operation) to use."
"I do know that there are a number of Quebecers that have been identified as expressing an interest in travelling outside of Canada to join groups like the Islamic State [ISIS]. That's not a state secret, that's pretty open."
"I'm not surprised at all that Habib was part of a larger investigation, because open-source information indicates that the problem is much bigger than just him in the province in Quebec."
Phil Gurski, (former) CSIS analyst
Mr. Big Habib
Ismael Habib speaks to an undercover officer during a Mr. Big sting. (Court Evidence)

This is a young Muslim man living in Canada, who saw  his personal stars aligning when he responded to the allure and romance of jihad. The winning ways of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as the brave new world of promise for Islam captured his imagination and he became besotted with the prospect of becoming an ISIL warrior. Dying for Islam ... no problem, for the rewards are ample, from becoming a respected and admired 'martyr', to anticipating the award in Paradise of nubile virgins awaiting his arrival, happy to service him.

He had travelled to Syria in 2013 because, he informed the Montreal court where his case is being heard, he was "curious" and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. When he returned from Syria, the attention of police fell upon the man from Gatineau who felt it incumbent upon himself to travel to an incendiary war zone. That resulted in his Canadian passport being cancelled, to keep him from repeating his curiosity-driven visit once again.

But he was determined to return, to leave Canada and venture once again abroad where the action was taking place, and where his ambitions called him to make that especial effort to relocate himself. Police initiated a luring operation, to convince the man that a criminal organization was interested in helping him by providing him with a false passport. For the right price they could even smuggle him and other prospective jihadis by ship out of Canada to any destination they sought.

He was sufficiently convinced that he was in the company of those capable of aiding him in his goal that his declaration of loyalty to jihad and Islamic State was iterated. He was simply awaiting the time when he was able to settle his debts. If he embarked for Syria and left behind unpaid debts he was convinced that entry would be denied him to Paradise and the 72 virgins awaiting his arrival would be devastated.

Habib indulged in a bit of boasting to the crime syndicate with which he was negotiating the price of a new passport and passage out of Canada, describing for the 'crime boss' that his previous trip along with his brother-in-law had them joining Chechen jihadis. His proof was a photograph of himself in combat gear, clasping the AK-47 assault rifle he had bought.

But during his trial, he spoke to the court describing himself as having accidentally stumbled into the jihadi morass, not intentionally. He heard not a single gunshot, never took part in the fighting. His experience was akin to that of attending a summer camp; completely innocent. As for arranging a return trip in 2016, that was motivated for concern over his wife and two small children left behind there.

Unfortunately for him, Quebec Court Justice Delisle found his testimony less than credible. "Outlandish" was how the judge described Habib's explanation. An explanation that was "destroyed by contradictions and weighed down by elements of dishonesty and lies". And so, he was found guilty of planning to travel to Syria to commit a terrorist act, which in Canada represents a crime whose punishment can be up to a ten-year prison sentence.

Justice Delisle preferred the version of events that an undercover RCMP officer was privy to in February of 2016 when Habib addressed the officer in the belief he was a criminal offering his help for a price. And when the defence attempted to have the Mr. Big operation's evidence tossed on the grounds that the statements elicited from Habib were coerced, the result of a "confession trap", Judge Delisle responded that no violence or coercion had occurred.

Perhaps Habib's downfall began after he had beaten his girlfriend living with him in Gatineau which motivated her to go to police explaining that he had threatened to blow up her car while she and her child were in it, should she think of informing anyone of his travel plans. Habib, she testified, intently watched violent ISIL videos daily, and wanted her to commit to fully veiling herself.

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