A Burlington man who created a story about an Islamic State executioner has seen the rare terrorism-fraud charges he faced when his stories became the focus of major media reports, gaining worldwide attention. attracted and caused a political storm in Canada.
Justice Donald MacLeod accepted the Crown’s decision in a Brampton court on Friday to withdraw the terrorism-fraud charges leveled against 26-year-old Shehrooz Chaudhry.
The charges were withdrawn when it was found that the accused claimed to have fought for Islamic State and posed little danger to the public.
Chowdhury came into the limelight internationally after a series of his social-media posts, in which he claimed to have participated in ISIS activities, attracted media attention, most notably in The New York Times’ popular podcast Khilafat.
When he claims to have committed atrocities, the Times labeled him a “fabulist”.
The result of a year’s negotiations between the Crown and defense counsel would see Chaudhry being served a $10,000, no-deposit, 12-month, counter-terrorism peace bond, which McLeod called a “misguided move” during that time. when he was “very influential.
McLeod said based on what he saw that “Chowdhary is in less danger,” and is not the kind of person he expects to get into trouble.
“You are the one person who can be saved,” an Ontario court judge told Chowdhury via Zoom video conference. “Don’t let anyone down!”
McLeod said it appeared Choudhury was getting attention online and then it “flyed off,” adding that “sometimes this kind of attention can be dangerous; it’s a ball that keeps rolling.”
He said this is not an easy solution to hash out.
“It’s not a slap on the wrist in any way,” he said.
Chowdhury thanked Justice MacLeod for his advice, saying, “It really means a lot to me.
“I appreciate everything you said and it will be followed very closely.”
Chowdhury’s lawyer Nadar Hassan said that by entering into the bond of peace, Chowdhury does not plead guilty to the allegation of terrorism-fraud, nor that he had any criminal intent.
“It was born out of immaturity, nothing more frightening,” Hassan said. “Mr. Chowdhury falsely claimed on social media that he had gone to Syria and worked for ISIS.
He said his client was aware that “his conduct caused alarm within the community.”
Hassan said that Chowdhury’s story gained momentum due to careless reporting from the media.
The recent York University environmental science graduate, who works at his family’s Burlington business, has no criminal record and has been engaged in counseling for the past two years, the court heard.
An agreed statement of facts describes how Choudhury’s bizarre story began in 2016, when he was a frequent visitor to chat sites supporting ISIS, a terrorist group listed under the Canadian Criminal Code.
Chowdhury began stealing some of the information he had read and posted it on his social media accounts, fabricated stories that he had gone to Syria and participated in ISIS activities.
In his 2016 Instagram post, Chowdhury claimed that he had fought with ISIS and was posted to the Amniat section stationed in Manbij, Raqqa and Rabia. Chowdhury said he was “on the battlefield,” that he “went for less than a year.”
Chowdhury’s posting attracted the attention of mainstream media, such as The New York Times, which reports on Chowdhury’s story, as well as the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which published a report citing Chaudhry’s various social media posts. Prepared the report, which he provided. to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The RCMP launched an investigation.
The Times’ popular podcast, Khilafat, which was listened to by millions, portrayed Choudhury as a central figure, the statement of fact said.
The New York Times later admitted that there were “significant lies and other inconsistencies” in Chaudhry’s story, admitting that there was “no substantiation” for any of his claims at the time, the court heard.
New York Times reporter Rukmini Calimachi flew to Canada to interview Choudhury for her 10-part series that began on April 18, 2018. Chowdhury insisted that he had joined the Hisba unit of ISIS, contrary to his initial Instagram posting in which he said that he had joined the Amiyat section.
In one episode of the series, Chowdhury claimed that he had murdered ISIS prisoners.
Since then, the Times admitted that the podcast “did not meet its standards for accuracy,” that it was not properly scrutinized by editors, that basic fact-checking was not done, the court heard.
Chaudhry was later introduced to Mubeen Shaikh, a man who has worked with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP in the past as a paid agent.
The court heard that Shaikh often met with Chaudhry for “consulting” and “abusive” purposes, but it was unclear whether any actual consultation took place and Shaikh’s intentions to contact Chaudhry remain unclear, the Crown read.
Shaikh arranged interviews for Chowdhary on mainstream Canadian media programs such as CBC’s The Fifth Estate (“When Terror Comes Home”) and Global News.
On CBC’s “When Terror Comes Home” aired September 2019, Chowdhary, who used a surname, was captured in an interview with his family’s restaurant, stating, “I know I missed out.” His comments prompted then-Conservative House leader Candice Bergen to address parliament, saying, “This man described how he killed individuals by shooting them in the back of the head. This man is apparently in Toronto.” Canadians deserve more answers from this government.”
Sheikh said that Choudhary did not seek out these media organizations on his own; Was excited after the interview; And did not want the Khalifa podcast to come out, the court heard.
His comments were picked up and reported by other media outlets including the National Post, Toronto Sun, The Washington Post, Vice Media, Arab News, The Guardian and Toronto Star.
According to a statement agreed between the Crown and the Defence, Chaudhry’s story “carried up a political storm in Canada with his claim that he participated in atrocities by ISIS in Syria”. Chaudhry never entered Syria nor participated in ISIS operations anywhere in the world, the agreed statement indicates.
Chowdhury would later admit to the RCMP that he had lied and that he had never been to Syria.
Chowdhury also made Facebook posts where he cited ISIS propaganda and displayed pictures of military weapons.
The RCMP said at the time that Chaudhry’s claims in several media interviews of a trip to Syria to join Islamic State in 2016 raised public safety concerns among Canadians.
“Cheating can create fear within our communities and create the illusion that there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise,” Sup. Christopher Degel said in a statement at the time.