A Canadian man who was detained by Turkish police in July, is believed to have been carrying a phone containing ISIS propaganda at the time of his arrest, according to the CBC. Ikar Mao was arrested close to the Syrian border in the summer of 2019. He was travelling with his wife at the time.
The phone had been sent ISIS related videos using the encrypted messaging app, Telegram. The man claimed that the videos were downloaded without his knowledge or intent.
In October, the couple were able to make their way back to Canada after being acquitted.
The man denied joining ISIS and claimed that the couple was not planning on going to Syria.
The FBI was not convinced by the couples claims. According to the CBC, terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann said, “It’s a huge red flag.”
“Up until the last few days Telegram was the chief means that ISIS and its supporters were using to communicate with the mother organization — the mother ship as well as with each other.”
The man is scheduled to attend court on Friday near Toronto. He is currently abiding by the courts bail conditions which include very limited access to internet, a curfew, as well as an ankle bracelet.
The videos sent to Mao’s phone contained ISIS propaganda as well as armed soldiers. We are not yet sure if the original evidence has been seen by Canadian authorities.
Kamran Bokhari who is with the Center for Global Policy in Washington was quoted saying, “If you have Telegram and then you have footage inside your Telegram account that shows jihadist videos or jihadist pictures or messages or memes, then of course that’s a very telltale sign.”
Telegram is an app that ISIS often uses.
Further evidence shows that the couple said they intended to join ISIS in a letter that was intended for their family.
Kholmann also said, “It could very well be a part of propaganda efforts inside of Syria. ISIS produces a tremendous amount of propaganda. They produce a lot of videos. They produce a lot of audio, and a lot of this stuff is harvested directly from the battlefield,” he went on to say, “In order to carry this material backwards and forwards — in order to transfer it between cameramen and the media editors and whatnot — it takes media devices to carry it.”
Kohlmann believes that the death of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not slowed the ISIS organization and said, “ISIS is not dead, and these cases are proving that the appeal that ISIS has to Westerners is still there, and they are still traveling to Syria and Iraq to the battlefield where ISIS still has a physical presence,” he went on to say, “This organization is no longer just an organization. It’s a hybrid. It’s an organization and it’s a movement. These folks, they don’t need Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi anymore.”
Bokhari is still open to the possibility that the whole situation is a misunderstanding. He noted, “It’s possible that they did not have any intention of engaging in violence and they just wanted to be part of a context or an environment which they call ‘under Islamic rule,” and added, “But again, it’s a hard case to make because everybody knows — and these individuals who decided to make this journey also knew — that there was a lot of violence associated with this regime, the jihadist regime that ISIS had established. So it’s a hard case for the defence to make.”
The family and the lawyers of the couple have declined to comment on the situation.