Mohamed got seven years.
But three years later, he was already out of prison on statutory release, although his parole report said he had not abandoned extremist ideology and remained a “significant” risk.
He was one of five terrorism offenders released from Canadian prisons in 2019, despite concerns raised by parole boards that four of them still posed a risk to public safety.
At least three more could be released this year.
Mohamed Hersi, sentenced to 10 years in 2014 for participating in the activities of the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab, is scheduled for statutory release on December 23.
Meanwhile, Rehab Dughmosh became eligible for day parole on Feb. 7, and Ismael Habib will be eligible on May 22. Both are eligible for full parole later this year.
None of those released last year are known to have committed violence since leaving prison, but parole board reports obtained by Global News suggest Canadian terrorism offenders are coming out still radicalized.
“There is no evidence to indicate that you are committed to changing your extremist ideological beliefs,” the Parole Board of Canada wrote two weeks before Kevin Omar Mohamed’s statutory release on March 2019.
The dangers that poses have become evident in the United Kingdom.
Attacks in London on Feb. 2, 2020 and Nov. 29, 2019 were carried out by terrorism offenders recently let out of prison after serving half their sentences, a policy the British government is now scrambling to undo.
Emergency legislation introduced in the U.K. on Feb. 11 would end automatic early release for those convicted of terrorism crimes, who would have to serve at least two-thirds of their sentences and face restrictions upon their release.
A Feb. 21 hammer attack that killed a 64-year-old woman on a Toronto street, and the subsequent police allegation that it was an act of terrorism, is a reminder that Canada has its own problems with extremist violence.
In Canada, most terrorism sentences since 2016 have been seven years or less, a review of Public Prosecution Service of Canada records shows. With time-and-a-half credit for pre-trial custody, and statutory release at the two-thirds mark, they are in fact substantially shorter.
Even Dughmosh, sentenced to seven years on Feb. 14, 2019 for trying to join ISIS and a 2017 attack at a Toronto Canadian Tire she justified on the grounds her religion instructed her to “kill every non-Muslim,” is already eligible for day parole.
She will be eligible for full parole in August.
Whether such sentences are long enough for meaningful de-radicalization to occur undoubtedly depends on the individual, but documents obtained by Global News show the parole system has been struggling with terrorism offenders.
In their reports, parole boards have been raising concerns about the continued radicalization of those convicted of terrorism-related crimes who are about to be released, prompting them to make use of their authority to impose added restrictions on offenders.
Among those flagged by the parole board was Carlos Larmond.
Arrested in January 2015 while trying to fly out of Montreal to join ISIS, the Ottawa twin pleaded guilty to a terrorism offence in 2016 and was sentenced to seven years.
Although the Parole Board said he had been rated a high risk to public safety, he was statutorily released on Dec. 26, 2019. To mitigate the dangers, parole officials imposed 11 conditions on him.
He must live at a halfway house, return there nightly and undergo treatment for radicalization. In addition, he cannot delete his internet history or operate more than one account on any social media site.
In its report, the board said it was concerned he “may continue to commit terrorist related offences” and ordered him to undergo religious counselling and abide by four other conditions upon his March 1, 2019 statutory release date.
Seven conditions were placed on Suliman Mohamed upon his Aug. 13, 2019 statutory release, notably that he participate in counselling “to deal with religious extremism.”
The Parole Board of Canada can “impose any special conditions that it considers reasonable and necessary to further manage an offender’s risk in the community,” said spokesperson Holly Knowles.
“An offender can be returned to prison at any time if they violate their parole conditions, commit a new offence, or there is any indication that the offender poses an increased risk to the community.”
However, experts pointed to the lack of de-radicalization programming in Canadian prisons as a problem.
Volunteer prison chaplains are trying to help, and some offenders seek counselling after their release, said professor Amarnath Amarasingam, a Queen’s University terrorism expert.
After getting out of prison, one convicted member of the Toronto 18 terrorist group made his way to Syria, where he joined an armed extremist faction and was killed.
The success of several other former Toronto 18 members shows that “people can be coached to rebuild their lives,” Amarasingam said, but “for the most part, none of the radicalized offenders in prison are really getting the help they need.”
According to his parole report, Suliman Mohamed met an “instigator” at a prayer room after he “began practicing Islam more intensely.” He watched propaganda videos and ultimately pledged allegiance to ISIS.
“You elaborated a plan, with the help of accomplices, to travel to Syria in order to join the Islamic State. Moreover, you attempted to facilitate others to do the same and declared to an accomplice that you wanted to be part of a domestic terrorist attack,” his parole report reads.
Arrested in January 2015, Mohamed could have received 10 years after he pleaded guilty in August 2016. He got seven, and once he was credited for one-and-a-half days for each day he was held awaiting trial, that became four-and-a-half years.
Prior to his release six months ago, the parole board reviewed his progress and found concerns, alleging he would “present an undue risk to society” unless additional steps were taken.
Woman guilty of terror charges in Canadian Tire attack sentenced to 7 years in prison
“Your thinking is still described as rigid and narrow and you had advised your CMT [case management team] that you did not feel your actions were criminal. This is concerning to the board,” the report reads.
“The Board feels that although you have made some gains we are not completely satisfied that you have completely changed your pattern of thinking in relation to extremist ideology.”
Mohamed had renounced his allegiance to ISIS and attended seven sessions (although the details were blacked out of the report before it was released to Global News).
“In the Board’s opinion, this is not sufficient to address your extremist ideology.”
As a result, the parole board imposed “special conditions” on him: He must live at a halfway house and show his parole supervisor his cell phone billing statements listing all his incoming and outgoing calls.
He was also forbidden from using a computer that can access the internet, unless for work or school, must show his parole officer his financial statements, and can’t associate with anyone involved in criminal activity.
The Conservative opposition doesn’t believe such measures are good enough and is proposing to eliminate automatic statutory release when offenders have served two-thirds of their sentences.
The killing of a woman at a Quebec hotel on Jan. 22, and the subsequent arrest of an offender who had been recently paroled, has “brought to light a number of troubling issues,” said MP Pierre Paul-Hus.
“We feel that it is irresponsible to release a violent criminal, whether a terrorist or other, knowing that he/she is still a threat to Canadian safety,” said Paul-Hus, the Conservative public safety critic.
The problem is partly the result of a young terrorism offender population and a government decision not to offer de-radicalization programming to inmates, said University of Calgary law professor Michael Nesbitt.
“So it is not surprising to see parole boards acknowledging that terrorism offenders remain radicalized on release,” said the national security law expert, who has studied terrorism sentencing.
He said current terrorism sentences separated offenders from society for a period of time, in the hope they will “emerge having changed their own minds given time in prison.”
“That is literally wishful thinking.”
Only one terrorism offender released last year satisfied the parole board he was no longer a threat: Misbahuddin Ahmed, who had been recruited by an al-Qaeda-linked extremist plotting bombings in Canada.
Ahmed was arrested in Ottawa in 2010, found guilty of two terrorism offences and sentenced to 12 years in 2014. He was granted day parole in 2017 and full parole on April 30, 2019.
The parole board imposed four conditions on him, including religious counselling. But it was largely satisfied he had undergone “introspection and reflection” and abandoned terrorism.
“It is the Board’s opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society if released and that your release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen,” his last parole report read.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Courts block two Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates
The Biden administration was blocked on Tuesday from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of American workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can resolve legal challenges.
Doughty’s ruling applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.
Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to get a coronavirus shot.
“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Doughty.
Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation that new government contracts must include clauses requiring that contractors’ employees get vaccinated.
The contractor ruling applied in the three states that had filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. It appears to be the first ruling against the contractor vaccine mandate.
The White House declined to comment.
The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and curtail travel and economic activity across the globe.
Biden unveiled regulations in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.
Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.
Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.
The most sweeping regulation, a workplace vaccine-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
Putin hits back as NATO warns Moscow against attacking Ukraine
Russia would pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine, NATO and the United States warned on Tuesday as the Western military alliance met to discuss Moscow’s possible motives for massing troops near the Ukrainian border.
President Vladimir Putin countered that Russia would be forced to act if U.S.-led NATO placed missiles in Ukraine that could strike Moscow within minutes.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that now aspires to join the European Union and NATO, has become the main flashpoint between Russia and the West as relations have soured to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended.
“There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Stoltenberg, saying: “Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States…, and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.”
Tensions have been rising for weeks, with Russia, Ukraine and NATO all staging military exercises amid mutual recriminations over which side is the aggressor.
Putin went further than previously in spelling out Russia’s “red lines” on Ukraine, saying it would have to respond if NATO deployed advanced missile systems on its neighbour’s soil.
“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine,” the Kremlin leader said.
“What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now,” he said, pointing to Russia’s recent testing of a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound.
EU and other Western leaders are involved in a geopolitical tug-of-war with Russia for influence in Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet republics, Moldova and Georgia, through trade, cooperation and protection arrangements.
NATO foreign ministers began two days of talks in the Latvian capital Riga to debate what they say is the growing Russian threat, with Blinken due to brief his 29 alliance counterparts on Washington’s intelligence assessment.
Blinken, speaking at a news conference with his Latvian counterpart, said he will have more to say on Wednesday on how to respond to Russia after holding talks with NATO allies.
“We will be consulting closely with…allies and partners in the days ahead…about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defences, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity,” he said.
Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmygal accused Russia https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/exclusive-ukraine-pm-says-russia-absolutely-behind-coup-attempt-2021-11-30 of trying to topple the elected government in Kyiv, which the Kremlin denies, after Ukraine’s president last week unveiled what he said was a coup attempt.
Shmygal also said Ukraine would seek more weapons from the United States – precisely the course of action that Putin has warned against.
The Kremlin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country. That conflict has killed 14,000 people, according to Kyiv, and is still simmering.
In May, Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders numbered 100,000, the most since its Crimea takeover, Western officials say. Ukraine says there are more than 90,000 there now.
Moscow has dismissed as inflammatory Ukrainian suggestions that it is preparing for an attack, said it does not threaten anyone and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it wishes.
Britain and Germany echoed the NATO warnings.
“We will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken…Russia would have to pay a high price for any sort of aggression.”
(Additional reporting by John Chalmers in Brussels; writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Robin Emmott and Mark Trevelyan; editing by Mark Heinrich)
Jazz singer Josephine Baker first Black woman honoured at France’s Pantheon
Josephine Baker, the famed French American singer and dancer, was inducted on Tuesday into the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris – one of France’s highest honours – at a ceremony attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Baker, who also served in the French Resistance during World War Two and was a prominent civic rights activist after the war, is the first Black woman and sixth woman to enter the Pantheon, a Paris landmark dominating the city’s Latin Quarter.
She was “a Black person who stood up for Black people, but foremost, she was a woman who defended humankind,” Macron said during a speech.
He spoke shortly after Baker’s most famous song, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two loves, my country and Paris”), was played at the ceremony.
Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906 but went on to find much of her fame after arriving in Paris in the 1920s, as many Black Americans stayed on in the French capital after World War One and brought over with them American jazz culture.
Baker, who became a French citizen in 1937, died in 1975 and is buried in Monaco.
In accordance with her family’s wishes, Baker’s remains have not been moved to the Pantheon. To represent her presence there, a symbolic coffin was carried into the mausoleum by six pallbearers containing handfuls of earth from four locations: St. Louis, Paris, Monaco and Milandes, in the Dordogne department of France, where Baker owned a castle.
Baker’s empty coffin will lie alongside other French national icons in the mausoleum such as authors Emile Zola and Victor Hugo, the philosopher Voltaire and politician Simone Veil.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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