B.C. woman who married ISIS fighter released on bail pending 'terrorism peace bond' hearing

Kimberly Polman was released on bail Thursday after returning to Canada from a detention camp for families of ISIS fighters. The Crown is seeking a peace bond against her. (The Return: Life After ISIS - image credit)
Kimberly Polman was released on bail Thursday after returning to Canada from a detention camp for families of ISIS fighters. The Crown is seeking a peace bond against her. (The Return: Life After ISIS - image credit)

A woman who returned to Canada this week after marrying an ISIS fighter and spending years in detention in Syria was released on bail Thursday pending a hearing to determine if she should be subject to a so-called "terrorism peace bond."

A provincial court judge in Chilliwack, B.C., ordered Kimberly Polman's release on a strict set of conditions — including a promise to take counselling aimed at countering violent extremism.

The judge also ordered Polman not to communicate with anyone who she believes may be associated with terrorist groups and to abstain from any type of communication through social media, which is where she has previously told reporters she met her husband.

Marriage through Twitter

Polman was arrested on her arrival Wednesday morning in Montreal after spending three years at the al-Roj detention camp for families of ISIS fighters in northern Syria.

She travelled to the war-torn country in 2015 after marrying an ISIS fighter online and has said she was in a "terrible place" at the time.

The Return: Life After ISIS
The Return: Life After ISIS

Polman was one of two Canadian women repatriated from the camp this week. The RCMP arrested the other woman, Oumaima Chouay, on terrorism charges Tuesday night at the Montréal-Trudeau airport upon her arrival in Canada.

The Crown is seeking a peace bond against Polman under a section of the Criminal Code of Canada intended to keep people from supporting or involving themselves with terrorist activity.

A hearing on the application for the bond itself is likely to take place in the coming months.

The document which initiated the proceeding claims police have "reasonable grounds to fear" that Polman "may commit a terrorism offence, to wit: participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, an activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to carry out a terrorist activity."

Polman's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, previously told CBC that the federal government allowed Polman to return home due to her health under a new policy adopted last year by Global Affairs Canada for those who could not be treated in Syria for life-threatening medical conditions.

Polman has claimed to have both lupus and hepatitis.

She has spoken extensively in media interviews about her reasons for going to Syria and her experience with ISIS since arriving at the detention camp in 2019.

In an interview with Anne Speckard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, Polman said she met her ISIS husband through Twitter and married him online.

She claimed her husband turned on her and that she was thrown into prison for asking about how to leave. After being released from prison, she fled with a mass of ISIS families trying to escape Syria.

Glasses and green prison sweats

The arguments and evidence presented at Thursday's bail hearing cannot be reported because of a publication ban.

Polman was led into the prisoner's box by a sheriff. It was the first time she has been seen in public in Canada since she fled to Syria.

Google Street View
Google Street View

As opposed to the images of Polman that have emerged from media interviews, she wore no head covering, with brown curly hair pulled behind her ears by a plain headband. She wore glasses and green prisoner's sweats.

Greenspon attended remotely, The only people in the courtroom for most of the day appeared to be police and members of the media, but shortly before the hearing ended, three of Polman's female relatives walked into the room.

Polman smiled from the prisoner's box as they waved to her.

The terms and conditions of Polman's release include a prohibition on her possessing a cellphone or any other device capable of connecting to the internet. She must abide by a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and live at her family's home in Chilliwack.

Polman is also forbidden from driving a car and will be fitted for around-the-clock electronic monitoring. The conditions also order her not to have any contact with a number of people, including Oumaima Chouay — the other woman who was repatriated to Canada this week.

Outside the courtroom, Crown counsel Ryan Carrier said the seeking of a terrorism peace bond has to be approved all the way up to the attorney general of Canada. He said it didn't preclude charges at a later point.

Carrier said he was confident the conditions would protect Canadians from any danger that Polman might present.

"I think the reality is the conditions are imposed to alleviate the risks that she poses, so they can rest assured," he said.