Canadian arrested in Turkey this summer charged with terror offences

A Canadian man detained in Turkey this past summer and accused of having ISIS propaganda on his phone was charged by RCMP Friday with terror-related offences.

Ikar Mao, 22, of Guelph, Ont., faces one count of participation in activity of a terrorist group and one count of leaving Canada to participate in activity of a terrorist group.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The RCMP said in a news release the charges came "following a national security investigation" by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Ontario.

"I want to reassure the citizens of the Greater Toronto Area and all Canadians that our primary focus is the safety and protection of the public at all times," RCMP Chief Supt. Michael LeSage said in the release.

Const. Louise Savard said later in the day that the force's investigation into the case remains active, but declined to say whether more arrests or charges are anticipated.

She confirmed Mao was accused of being part of the militant group ISIS.

Couple returned to Canada in October

Turkish authorities arrested Mao and his wife near the Syrian border this past summer.

The newlywed couple were held for three months before being released and returning to Canada in October. It's unclear whether or not Turkish authorities charged Mao, and whether he was acquitted or had charges dropped.

As CBC News first reported late Thursday, a Turkish court heard allegations that the phone belonging to Mao had received ISIS videos via Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, and that the couple left a letter for their families saying they intended to join ISIS.

The videos depict ISIS soldiers with guns espousing the militant group's propaganda, the court heard.

Ikar Mao/
Ikar Mao/

Records viewed by CBC News said Mao and his wife denied that they had left their families to join ISIS and told the court they just wanted to live in a Muslim country.

Mao said he hadn't intentionally sought out the ISIS videos but that they had loaded automatically while he was surfing the internet.

In the past several weeks, Mao has been living under strict court-imposed conditions, including wearing a GPS monitor, abiding by a curfew and having limited access to the internet. Ontario Court of Justice documents said the conditions were imposed because of fear that Mao may commit a "terrorism offence."

The case is under a publication ban requested by Mao's lawyer, Soumia Allalou. It's not clear what evidence Canadian authorities are relying on.

Mao appeared in court in Brampton, Ont., about 45 km northwest of Toronto, on Friday afternoon. He remains in custody and is expected to make another court appearance on Wednesday.

Crown attorney Howard Piafsky said Mao surrendered himself to RCMP Friday morning.