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Court Orders Islamic State Fanboy to Stay in Canada — And Stay Off Twitter

Aaron Driver agreed to new court orders on Tuesday, despite never being convicted of a crime — or even charged with one.
February 2, 2016, 10:34pm
Photo via the Canadian Press/John Woods

A proud supporter of the Islamic State is forbidden from using social media, can't leave the country, and must check in with a police officer twice a month, though he has never been charged with a crime.

Nevertheless, 23-year-old Winnipegger Aaron Driver, agreed to a new set of conditions imposed by the court to limit his behavior — a peace bond — on Tuesday that will last for the next 10 months, and is designed to keep him away from the terror group.

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"If I fought it, they would have added even more conditions than I'm already under," Driver told the CBC at the courthouse in Winnipeg.

The Crown told the court that by signing the bond, Driver was "consenting or acknowledging that there are reasonable grounds to fear that he may participate, contribute — directly or indirectly — in the activity of a terrorist group."

"People beheaded — he's commenting on them like it's some big joke, and he's applauding their actions. There was picture of Christian kids being assassinated, and he said they deserved it."

Driver's attorney has attempted to fight the peace bond, saying that the restrictions on his client's freedom are only for people who have been charged with a crime. Civil liberties advocates have condemned the use of peace bonds this way.

Driver was released from police custody on bail last June after officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested him and raided his Winnipeg home. The cops confiscated his phone, computer, flash drives, and his Qur'an, because they suspected he would participate in or contribute to a terrorist group. He was kept in custody for eight days.

Months before, Driver gave candid interviews with Canadian news outlets about his beliefs, telling the Toronto Star that he was "excited" about the attacks on Parliament Hill that killed a young corporal in 2014 "because there was retaliation" for Canada sending fighter jets to Iraq.

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Driver converted to Islam when he was 17 and used the pseudonym Harun Abdurhaman online and frequently tweeted his about his adoration of IS.

Driver's father, a member of the Canadian military, became so concerned that he reported his son to Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He said the agency began 24/7 monitoring of his son's Twitter account.

"Some things made me want to throw up," the father said of his son's activity on Twitter. "People beheaded — he's commenting on them like it's some big joke, and he's applauding their actions. There was picture of Christian kids being assassinated, and he said they deserved it."

As part of his new peace bond conditions, Driver must surrender his passport, continue living with his brother, and report twice a month to an RCMP sergeant, stay off social media, and have no contact with members of IS or any other terrorist group.

Related: Canadian Supporter of Islamic State Released on Bail

As of last summer, peace bonds have been used in Canada eight times since 2001 for people suspected of committing acts of terrorism. Driver could have faced 12 months in jail for not signing the peace bond application.

Peace bonds are a matter of debate in the Canadian legal and security community. Because they can be applied to someone that has never been charged with a crime, there have been concerns that it's not only an undue limit on civil liberties, but that it may be too easy for police to use.

"If everyone is on peace bonds, we're in this nether region where we don't have to produce evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, said during a discussion panel on Bill C-51, Canada's anti-terrorism law that expanded the use and power of peace bonds.

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_Browne