Winnipeg man who has publicly admitted being an Islamic State supporter is being held in custody despite not facing any criminal allegations, the Free Press has learned.

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This article was published 5/6/2015 (2582 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg man who has publicly admitted being an Islamic State supporter is being held in custody despite not facing any criminal allegations, the Free Press has learned.

Aaron Driver, who uses the alias Harun Abdurahman, was arrested Thursday after police raided his two-storey house at 70 Carlotta Cres.

Court documents show justice officials have now applied for a peace bond against Driver under section 810 of the Criminal Code. This would allow them to place certain restrictions on his activities and freedoms in the community for a set period of time.

Driver has the option of either consenting to the application or fighting it. His case appeared for less than three minutes on Friday morning’s docket and has now been adjourned to next Tuesday. He remains behind bars pending a resolution of the matter, according to court documents.

"This will take a little bit longer than the usual bail sitting," provincial court Judge Ryan Rolston told Driver. When asked if he understood the situation, Driver quietly said ‘yes."

Special court sitting expected

Crown attorney Ian Mahon said a special court sitting will likely have to be arranged for the matter. Defence lawyer Cam Pauls appeared on Driver’s behalf but said he is waiting to be officially retained. He said the next several days will be filled with "disclosure and discussions" with the Crown.

These types of peace bonds are more commonly used against high-risk sex offenders who have served every second of their sentence and are set to be released from prison despite concerns they may reoffend. They are seen as a "last resort" for individuals police fear are likely to commit a crime.

In the wording on the peace bond, justice officials say the following: Driver may "participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, the activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity."

No other information is included. Police are seeking a one-year peace bond, with the only condition being that Driver "keep the peace and be of general behaviour." This type of generic wording would give police the power to arrest him for any type of wrongdoing, minor or major.

Driver previously made headlines when he shared his radical support for IS in a February 2015 interview with the Toronto Star.

Heavy police presence

Police have said little about their investigation, which saw them remain inside his Charleswood home for several hours on Thursday.

"There is a strong police presence to ensure the safety of the public and of our officers," RCMP Sgt. Bert Pacquet told the Free Press.

The identification and canine units were at the house Thursday morning and traffic in the area was temporarily blocked. Officers were later seen removing what appeared to be two computers from the home.

Neighbours told the Free Press they'd noticed undercover officers in unmarked vehicles near the house for long periods of time in recent weeks, and that the homeowner may have been renting a room to a young man.

Rob White, a neighbour, told the Free Press his routine garbage/recycling day took an unexpected turn when he came face-to-face with a police officer as he collected his bins.

"I went to get my recycling bin from the curb and an RCMP officer with a rifle in his hands said, 'Sir, go back in your home until we tell you to come out.' So I phoned my boss and said I'm going to be kind of late. Then I put the news on and there was an aerial shot of the area so I texted it to my boss so he could see why!"

White said he had seen, but didn't know, a young man who lived at the house.

"We knew he lived there but that's about it. We know the single mother and two kids, she's really friendly. We didn't know it was a tenant, we thought it was her son," said White.

"We saw him coming and going but he was always very quiet. He was a 20-year-old kid, they don't really start conversations, right?"

Several Twitter accounts suspended

Amarnath Amarasingam, an Ontario-based researcher studying radicalization and foreign fighters at the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University, said he has monitored Abdurahman's Twitter account for months and has been in contact with Abdurahman's father, who could not be reached on Thursday by the Free Press.

Abdurahman has had at least six Twitter accounts suspended, Amarasingam said, and it's clear he was plugged in to a pro-Islamic State network, often using one of the terrorist group's battle cries, "Baqiya," which means "enduring" in Arabic. He was in touch with other IS supporters around the world, some of whom have been arrested.

"From what I could tell, he wasn't really making threats to Canada in any real way; at least, I never saw any of those kinds of comments... but with Bill C-51, it is technically possible to be arrested or charged with the promotion of terrorism just by social-media activity," Amarasingam told the Free Press Thursday night.

"It'll be interesting to see if they go that route with Harun, because he'll literally be the first test case for this promotion-of-terrorism angle."

Born to Christian family: article

Bill C-51, which was passed in the House of Commons last month, makes promoting terrorist activities a Criminal Code offence, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Amarasingam said the legislation is "a bit problematic" because of its broad interpretation of promoting terrorism.

"The amount of people that (Bill C-51) would round up... would be quite high. We're following very young kids in Toronto, 13- and 14-year-old kids who are very pro-ISIS online. So I wouldn't really want a 13- or 14-year-old kid facing legal action of some kind just for a tweet or a Facebook post.

"Going down that route opens some fairly scary doors, and I don't know if that's the wise thing to do. It's much more productive, I think, to get the community involved and get the legislators and social workers and youth workers involved to try to talk to these kids and find a pro-social way to address their political and religious grievances than to simply throw them in jail or put them in a system where now they have a criminal record."

A spokesman for Steven Blaney, federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, says the bill enhances the ability of police to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians.

"As the heads of our national security agencies and the Minister have said before, the threat of jihadi terrorists‎ is real," the spokesman said in a statement. "We will continue to ensure that our police forces have the tools they need to protect Canadians against this evolving threat of terrorism."

The Toronto Star interview said Harun Abdurahman was born in Ontario to a Christian family steeped in military tradition, but neither his father, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Alberta, nor his brother know how to turn around the young man who is now living in Winnipeg and has become an unapologetic supporter of the IS terrorist group.

Abdurahman, who agreed in the interview to be identified only by an online pseudonym, said all Muslims should emigrate to Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State has declared a caliphate governed by Sharia law.

He said he believed last fall's attacks on Parliament Hill and in Quebec were "justified" retribution for Canadian military aggression against IS.

"I think a lot of Canadians need to wake up and understand that we're doing this and worse to other people in other countries," said Abdurahman.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.