Calgary mother freed from ISIS detention camp now under investigation for terrorism, war crimes: court docs

·3 min read
Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp where a Canadian woman now in Alberta was held with her young daughter. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)
Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp where a Canadian woman now in Alberta was held with her young daughter. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)

A Canadian woman who was held for two years at an ISIS detention camp in Syria is now under investigation for terrorism offences and war crimes. However, her lawyer has suggested RCMP officers are exploiting their powers by both monitoring and investigating the Calgary mother, according to court documents recently filed at the Calgary courthouse.

A publication ban protects the 30-year-old woman's identity. CBC News will call her "S.A.," as she was previously identified in Federal Court.

In late 2021, the woman was issued emergency travel documents and returned to Canada, landing in Calgary in late November to reunite with her five-year-old daughter, who eight months earlier had been released to the woman's sister and American diplomat Peter Galbraith.

Galbraith has said in filed court documents that S.A. — who has been helping the FBI — doesn't appear to be aligned in any way with the ISIS loyalists in the camps.

When S.A. landed in Calgary in November, an arrangement between police, the Crown and S.A.'s lawyers had been made for the woman to be taken into custody by RCMP. She was then granted bail by a justice of the peace with the consent of the Crown.

Prosecutors are seeking a terrorism peace bond, which, if successful, would acknowledge there are reasonable grounds to fear S.A. may commit a terrorism offence.

As part of that application, S.A. was released on conditions pending the peace bond hearing. At that time, authorities would not say if further investigation or charges were expected.

New investigations

Now, a notice of disclosure application suggests that RCMP officers who are supervising S.A. during her time on release conditions have advised the woman that she is under investigation for war crimes and terrorism offences.

But defence lawyer Yoav Niv has raised red flags that the same RCMP officers supervising S.A. are also actively investigating her, using the woman's bail conditions to justify repeatedly showing up at her home, demanding she make statements and recording her.

"There is concern the [peace bond release conditions] are being used improperly in furtherance of a criminal investigation whereby the applicant is being compelled to assist in her own prosecution," reads part of the notice of disclosure application filed by Niv.

S.A. tried to escape Syria

S.A. travelled to Turkey in 2014 at the age of 23 and within a few months says she was convinced to cross into Syria, where she was married. In court documents, S.A. says she realizes she had been "manipulated" and described herself as a housewife, not an ISIS militant.

She said she tried to flee several times before she was "completely isolated from the outside world."

In 2019, S.A. and her daughter were detained by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and sent to northeastern Syria at Camp Al-Hol.

In March 2020, Galbraith — who has been helping the thousands of women and children being held in camps because of their involvement with or family connections to ISIS — began working with S.A.

According to Galbraith, S.A. provided "extensive information to the FBI both about ISIS suspects and about kidnapped American children."

After helping Galbraith for 15 months, S.A. was released from the camp in June 2021.

S.A. was in limbo, unable to travel back to Canada. She sued the Canadian government, and by November, she'd been able to secure emergency travel documents.

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