Montreal man who tried to join ISIL to be released from penitentiary soon


In 2017, Ismaël Habib was convicted of attempting to travel abroad to commit a terrorist act and giving false information to obtain a passport.

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A Montreal man who was found guilty of attempting to leave Canada to join the terrorist group ISIL in Syria will be released to a halfway house or a psychiatric institution soon, even though the Parole Board of Canada still has concerns about him.

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In 2017, Ismaël Habib, 34, was sentenced at the Montreal courthouse to a nine-year prison term after he was found guilty of attempting to join ISIL to fight with the group in Syria and of ‎using false documents in an attempt to obtain a passport.

When the time he had already served behind bars was factored into the sentence, he was left with a prison term of a little more than six and a half years.

Habib refused to have a parole hearing last year and will reach his statutory release date, the two-third mark of his sentence, soon. Offenders who reach the two-third mark of their sentence without having been previously granted parole automatically qualify for a release. In such cases, the Parole Board of Canada is limited to deciding whether conditions should be imposed on the release.

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In Habib’s case, the board ordered that he reside at a “community residential facility or a (psychiatric) institution approved by the Correctional Service of Canada until the expiration of” his sentence.

“The board believes that the sound management of the risk that you present requires prudence and management,” the board noted in its decision.

Habib is also required to supply his financial information to his parole officer and report any relationships he has with women.

Habib was born in Montreal to a Catholic mother from Quebec and a Muslim father from Afghanistan. He had been in Syria for a period of three months but, during November 2012, he left for Turkey to find his wife and two children with the intention of bringing them to Syria. ‎When he arrived in Turkey, he was informed that his Canadian passport had been revoked and Turkish authorities returned him to Canada.

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While he was back in Canada, Habib was targeted in a so-called Mr. Big operation, an RCMP undercover sting investigation, and was led to believe he was gradually becoming part of a criminal organization willing to help him leave Canada, either with a fake passport or through clandestine means like hiding in a shipping container.

According to the summary of a decision the board made on Wednesday, Habib appeared to have “shown some motivation toward a better understanding” of his crimes, but “a deterioration was noted during the last year. The link with your parole officer was broken and you have ceased the various follow-ups. Your more rigid attitude reappeared and your case management team (the people who prepare an offender for a release) noticed that you seem to be back in the same frame of mind as during the period” when he tried to join ISIL.

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“You wanted to join the ranks of the Islamic State in order to defend your ideologies. This involved associating with people adhering to this movement known for violence and its dangerousness,” the parole board wrote. “So, in order to help you make pro-social choices about the people you associate with, you will be prohibited from associating with or communicating with anyone who you know or have reason to believe is involved in any criminal and/or terrorist activity. The board reminds you that this condition includes your first wife, who joined the ranks of the Islamic State.”

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