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Canadian Supporter of Islamic State Released on Bail

Aaron Driver — who praised last year's deadly attack on the Canadian parliament building — was back in court Tuesday for his second bail hearing, even though he has never been charged with a crime.
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One of Canada's most vocal supporters of the so-called Islamic State was back in court Tuesday for his second bail hearing — even though he has never been charged with a crime.

In a case that civil liberties and legal experts say signals a disturbing new trend in Canadian law enforcement, Aaron Driver, 23, was first detained earlier this month.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers raided his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba because they suspected he would contribute to or participate in a terrorist group. Officers reportedly confiscated a computer, phone, flash drives, and Qur'an from the home.


Using the alias Harun Abdurahman, Driver had already been gaining notoriety for his pro-ISIS tweets and his candid interviews with Canadian media about his extremist beliefs.

He was arrested for the second time last Friday after his initial batch of 25 bail conditions were violated when the woman who posted his first bail and acted as his surety — apparently his landlord — withdrew her support.

Pending the RCMP's application for a peace bond against him, Driver agreed to a new round of 19 bail conditions on Tuesday — including wearing a GPS tracker at all times and not going on social media — and must report weekly to Winnipeg police.

His lawyer, Len Tailleur, is fighting those conditions, and has filed an application to challenge the peace bond process, saying that his client's current conditions are only for those who have been charged with a crime.

The woman who initially bailed him out told CBC News she was displeased with a 90-minute phone interview Driver gave the broadcaster last week, in which he praised the October attack on federal government buildings in Ottawa.

"I think if a country goes to war with another country, or another people or another community, they have to be prepared for things like that to happen," Driver said. "And when it does happen, they shouldn't act surprised…They deserved it."

Driver's father, a member of the Canadian military who served on an Alberta military base, told the CBC in March he was informed by CSIS, Canada's spy agency, that his son — who converted to Islam in 2008 — was considered a radical extremist and that the agency had been monitoring his Twitter account 24 hours a day.


"Some things made me want to throw up," the unidentified father told the CBC about Driver's tweets. "People beheaded — he's commenting on them like it's some big joke, and he's applauding their actions. There was a picture of Christian kids being assassinated, and he said they deserved it."

Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who follows the Twitter accounts of around 100 radicalized Canadians for his research, told VICE News that before Driver was arrested and subsequently barred from social media, he was popular among like-minded people on Twitter.

"He was talking to a lot of people, and they liked him," Amarasingam said. "A lot of his identity and sense of belonging comes from this online community, which is why he is going to find it hard to completely unplug his social media accounts.

Related: Report Says Gunman Who Ambushed Canada's Parliament Last Year Was Shot 31 Times

Despite Driver's provocative views, civil liberties and legal experts say the fact Driver has been detained and subjected to bail conditions without charge is alarming; if he hasn't been charged with a crime, he should be free to go without restrictions.

Corey Shefman, a lawyer and spokesperson for the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties (MARL), told VICE News Canadians should be concerned about Driver's situation, which he says is the first of its kind in Manitoba. He says he has not heard of anyone in Canada being preemptively arrested before a peace bond is accepted.


Peace bonds have been used in Canada eight times since 2001 for people suspected of terrorism. If the RCMP's peace bond application against him is accepted and he does not sign it, he could face up to 12 months in jail, still without being charged with a crime.

"It's very concerning, it doesn't sound like Canada to me," Shefman said. "His freedom of movement, his liberty, his rights to freedom of religion, all of these charter rights are being infringed through his bail order. The government is essentially stripping Mr. Driver of his rights, one by one."

Shefman, whose group is pursuing intervenor status in Driver's constitutional challenge, added that now that Bill C-51, the federal government's sweeping anti-terror legislation, has come into effect, there will likely be a surge in cases like Driver's because of law

enforcement's expanded powers and new laws prohibiting the promotion of terrorist ideology.

"I'm not saying Driver's views aren't disgusting," said Shefman. "We don't agree with his views and the positions that he stated. But he still has fundamental rights like every other Canadian."

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne