A B.C. man who faces deportation over his Facebook posts allegedly promoting terrorist attacks in the name of the Islamic State group says he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to false accusations.
Othman Hamdan was acquitted of terrorism-related charges by a B.C. Supreme Court judge last September but immigration authorities arrested him and have determined at multiple detention reviews that he poses a danger to the public.
On Tuesday, Hamdan told a hearing of the Immigration and Refugee Board that he was living a peaceful life in Fort St. John when he was arrested for allegedly calling for lone wolf attacks through Facebook.
“I was found innocent from all of these false accusations but I’m still being incarcerated,” he said, adding he has received about eight months of therapy from a psychologist.
He said his arrest following his acquittal made him relive the experience of the prosecution “over and over again,” to the point that it has undone the therapy that allowed him to manage his symptoms.
“Please forgive me if I show some of these symptoms, like agitation,” said Hamdan.
Hamdan is a Jordanian national who said he moved the United States to study electrical engineering but faced discrimination after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, prompting him to move to the Vancouver area in July 2002.
He told the hearing he had several Facebook accounts, including those using an old family moniker and the first name Adam because it was easier for westerners to pronounce.
Hamdan said his posts initially included poetry and were accessible to friends and family but as he began criticizing Islamic clergy for their hypocrisy, along with the Muslim Brotherhood and governments beyond the Middle East, he gained thousands of followers with whom he debated religion and politics.
“I went from a nobody to a somebody who had thousands of followers,” he said.
He said his posts of political satire and support for people struggling through the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to other Middle Eastern countries invited activists who could also post to his timeline.
Eighty-five posts were called into question during the trial, which a judge concluded may have been offensive to some people but did not constitute terrorism.
Hamdan has repeatedly cited his acquittal at detention review hearings that have been held every 30 days since his incarceration. The Immigration and Refugee Board said the security allegations it reviews involve a different standard of proof.
He told the hearing that posts suggesting Canada had weak infrastructure, including a dam in Revelstoke, B.C., were merely meant to contrast different attitudes to infrastructure compared with the Middle East.
The RCMP’s investigation did not capture entire transcripts of many posts including those about the Islamic State group, so much of what he said to a growing group of activists is being taken out of context, Hamdan added.
In response to his lawyer, Peter Edelmann, Hamdan said he was not doing any research on any infrastructure in Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has said at previous detention hearings that many of Hamdan’s posts would likely encourage violence against Canadians.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press