VANCOUVER, B.C. – The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver heard yesterday that a Fort St. John man accused of posting extremist Muslim propaganda online told police officers he doesn’t see a problem with his comments inspiring someone to shoot a Canadian soldier.
Othman Hamdan pleaded not guilty in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday to four terrorism-related offences, including encouraging the commission of murder, assault and mischief, all for terrorist purposes. He also pleaded not guilty to inducing and instructing someone to carry out a terrorist act, whether directly or indirectly.
The court also heard arguments about whether statements Hamdan made to RCMP officers should be admitted as evidence. Police spoke with Hamdan outside his apartment in November 2014, and in two subsequent interviews.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to stand up against an oppressor,” Hamdan, 35, is heard telling two police officers in an audio recording played in court. “Somebody who reads this, if he stands up against an oppressor, it’s an honourable (act). It’s nothing to be ashamed about,” he added, referring to posts he made on the Facebook page registered under his pseudonym, Adam Khalifa.
Hamdan confirms that he created the Facebook page as he spoke to the officers inside a Tim Hortons restaurant on April 1, 2015. He can be heard disparaging former prime minister Stephen Harper for providing aid to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group based in Turkey and Iraq that advocates for Kurdish independence. Hamdan described it as a terrorist organization.
“I don’t see me shooting any Canadian soldiers, but I don’t see any problem with somebody fighting back against an oppressor,” Hamdan told the officers. “Whether it’s Canadian, Chinese, Indian — it doesn’t matter. An oppressor is an oppressor.”
Justice Bruce Butler has yet to rule on the officers’ accounts of their meetings with Hamdan to determine if they can be used as evidence against the man at his trial, which is by judge alone.
Hamdan was arrested in Fort St. John in July 2015 for alleged offences dating back to the previous September. An RCMP statement at the time of his arrest said the propaganda included instructions to kill in the name of jihad.
Police stationed in Fort St. John at the time of his arrest testified that they first became aware of Hamdan after being notified by the RCMP’s counter-terrorism unit about online activity believed to be linked to ISIL. Cst. Travis Reed told the court that Hamdan appeared unhappy when he and his partner arrived at the man’s doorstep on Nov. 19, 2014. Reed said Hamdan was vocal about his disdain for the involvement of western countries in the Middle East and the media’s coverage of the region.
“He was clearly passionate about what he was thinking about,” Reed said. “But he wasn’t threatening in any way.”
Reed’s partner, Cst. Dylan Bergmark, described what he heard from Hamdan as “a rant.” Bergmark told the court Hamdan frequently used his hands energetically to emphasize his speech. “He was speaking quite loudly and aggressively but not in a way where I felt we were in danger,” the Mountie said. “It felt like he had something to get off his chest.”
Both police officers denied they put their hands on their weapons, unholstered their guns, handcuffed Hamdan, prevented him from leaving or threatened him in any way during that encounter.
Hamdan was dressed in a red prison uniform with white sneakers and wore glasses in the prisoner’s box. His hair was closely shaved and his beard neatly trimmed.
Pre-trial legal proceedings are expected to last until early December.