A Burlington man, who made up a story about being an Islamic State executioner, has seen the rare terrorism deception charges he faced dropped, after his stories became the focus of major media reports, capturing world attention and creating a political storm in Canada.
Judge Donald McLeod accepted the Crown’s decision to drop the terrorism fraud charges brought against Shehroze Chaudhry, 26, in a Brampton court on Friday.
The charges were dropped after the defendant was found to have fabricated claims of having fought for the Islamic State and posed no threat to the public.
Chaudhry attracted international attention after a number of his social media posts, in which he claimed to have participated in ISIS activities, garnered media attention, especially on The New York Times’ popular Caliphate podcast.
When his claims that he committed atrocities fell apart, the Times called him a “fabulist.”
The outcome of the year-long negotiation between the Crown and the defense attorney will see Chaudhry receive a $ 10,000 no-deposit peace bond, which McLeod called appropriate for what he called a “misstep,” during a time when the which was “very impressionable”.
“You are a person who can be saved,” the Ontario Court judge told Chaudhry, who appeared via Zoom videoconference. “Don’t let anyone down!”
McLeod said it appears Chaudhry was seeking attention online and then just “exploded,” adding that “sometimes attention like that can be dangerous – it’s a ball that keeps rolling.”
He said that this was not an easy resolution to discuss.
“It is by no means a slap on the wrist,” he said.
Chaudhry thanked Judge McLeod for his advice and said that “it actually means a lot to me.
“I appreciate everything you said and it will be followed very closely.”
Chaudhry’s lawyer, Nader Hasan, said that by signing the peace bond, Chaudhry does not admit guilt for the fraudulent terrorism charge, nor for having criminal intentions.
“He was born of immaturity, nothing more sinister,” Hasan said. “Mr. Chaudhry made a false boast on social media, a lie, that he had been in Syria and done things for ISIS.”
He said his client is aware that “his behavior caused alarm in the community.”
Hasan said Chaudhry’s story gained traction due to reckless media reporting.
The recent York University environmental science graduate, who works in his family’s Burlington business, has no criminal record and has been a consultant for the past two years, the court heard.
An agreed statement of fact details how Chaudhry’s strange story began in 2016, when he frequented chat sites that supported ISIS, a terrorist group listed in the Canadian Penal Code.
Chaudhry proceeded to plagiarize some of the information he read and posted it on his own social media accounts, making up stories that he had gone to Syria and participated in ISIS activities.
In one of his 2016 Instagram posts, Chaudhry claimed that he had fought with ISIS and was assigned to the Amniyat section stationed in Manbij, Raqqa and Rabia. Chaudhry added that he had “been on the battlefield”, that “he was a little less than a year.”
Chaudhry’s posts caught the attention of major media outlets, including The New York Times, which reported on Chaudhry’s story, as well as the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which produced a report with excerpts from various publications from Chaudhry on social media, which they provided. to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The RCMP launched an investigation.
The popular Times podcast Caliphate, heard by millions of people, featured Chaudhry as a central figure, according to the statement.
The New York Times later acknowledged that there were “significant falsehoods and other discrepancies” in Chaudhry’s story, admitting that “there was no corroboration” for any of his claims at the time, the court heard.
New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi flew to Canada to interview Chaudhry for his 10-part series that began on April 18, 2018. Chaudhry claimed that he had joined ISIS’s Hisbah unit, contrary to his post. initial Instagram in which he claimed that he had joined the Amniyat section.
In an episode of the series, Chaudhry claimed that he had murdered ISIS prisoners.
The Times has since admitted that the podcast “did not meet its standards for accuracy,” that the editors did not examine it properly, that a basic fact-check was not conducted, the court heard.
Chaudhry subsequently met Mubin Shaikh, an individual who has worked with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP as a paid agent in the past.
The court heard that Shaikh frequently met with Chaudhry for alleged “counseling” and “de-radicalization” purposes, but it is unclear if there was any actual counseling and Shaikh’s motives for approaching Chaudhry remain unclear, the Crown read.
Shaikh arranged interviews for Chaudhry on major Canadian media shows such as CBC’s The Fifth Estate and Global News.
On CBC’s “When Terror Comes Home,” which aired in September 2019, Chaudhry, who used an alias, is caught in an interview from his family’s restaurant saying, “I know I got away with it.” His comments prompted then-Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen to address Parliament saying: “This individual described how he executed people by shooting them in the back of the head. This guy is apparently in Toronto. Canadians deserve more responses from this government. “
Shaikh stated that Chaudhry did not seek out these media organizations on his own; he was agitated after interviews; and he hadn’t wanted the Caliphate podcast to come out at all, 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 the Toronto Star.
Chaudhry’s story “created a political storm in Canada with his claims that he participated in ISIS atrocities in Syria,” according to a statement agreed between the Crown and the defense. Chaudhry has never entered Syria, nor has he participated in ISIS operations anywhere in the world, the agreed statement indicates.
Chaudhry would later admit to the RCMP that he had lied and never went to Syria.
Chaudhry also posted on Facebook where he cited ISIS propaganda and displayed images of military weaponry.
The RCMP said, at the time, that Chaudhry’s claims in numerous media interviews that he traveled to Syria in 2016 to join the Islamic State raised public security concerns among Canadians.
“Hoaxes can create fear within our communities and create the illusion that there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise,” Supt. Christopher deGale said in a statement at the time.
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