A Canadian ISIS member caught in Syria and moved to the United States to stand trial should have been tried in Canada, a lawyer representing his family said on Monday.
“If there is evidence against Canadians being arbitrarily detained in northeastern Syria, they should be brought home and prosecuted,” Lawrence Greenspawn told Granthshala News.
“I don’t think we should be relying on the United States to bring back Canadians like this.”
US Department of Justice said on saturday Mohamed Khalifa was taken into custody by the FBI in Syria and taken to Virginia to face a possible life sentence for terrorism.
While the RCMP is also investigating a former Toronto IT worker who was captured by Kurdish forces in January 2019, the Canadian government will not return him to Canada.
Known as the “Voice of ISIS”, Khalifa is the first alleged Canadian ISIS member captured in Syria to be taken to the US
Greenspawn said it had not received any notice from Granthshala Affairs Canada that the US was detaining Khalifa, and wondered whether the Canadian government knew as well.
The charges were sworn in in US district court eight months ago, but it is unclear if Ottawa was aware. Granthshala Affairs Canada referred questions to the RCMP, which has not yet responded.
According to a statement from the Office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, “Canada for Granthshala Affairs has indicated that it is in contact with local authorities to gather additional information.”
In an interview with Granthshala News after being captured, Khalifa admitted that he was an ISIS fighter and worked for the ISIS media department, describing the execution video.
The RCMP later obtained a court order requiring Granthshala News to hand over recordings of the interview, which was conducted at a Kurdish military base in northeastern Syria.
Documents filed in the case show that the RCMP was “investigating Mr Khalifa for serious terrorism offences”, including committing an indictable offense for the benefit of a terrorist group.
But after the Canadian government failed to bring him to Canada to face justice, the FBI overpowered him, charged him, and was taken to the US.
“For those who say, ‘Let our Canadians rot in jail there,'” Greenspawn said, though he added that Khalifa should have been taken to Canada.
The US has repeatedly appealed to countries such as Canada to repatriate and prosecute their citizens held in detention facilities run by Kurds.
Khalifa was one of 13 adult Canadians captured by US-backed Kurdish fighters. Now four men and eight women are left with their children.
Canada has so far repatriated only two children.
Last week, Greenspon filed a petition in federal court on behalf of the families of the detainees. It asks the court to order the government to return them.
The US has accused Khalifa, a 38-year-old Saudi-Canadian, of conspiring to provide material aid to ISIS. He was reportedly the “principal translator” of ISIS propaganda material.
“There is no doubt that the FBI will hold terrorists and those providing material aid to terrorist organizations accountable for their actions,” said Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.