TORONTO — The lawyer for a man accused of leaving Canada to join Islamic State militants said Thursday that her client wasn't involved in any such plan and intends to fight the charge in court.
Rishma Gupta said Pamir Hakimzadah, 27, is stunned by the allegations against him.
"He's OK, he's kind of shocked by these charges, he's upset," Gupta said outside a Toronto courtroom where her client appeared briefly. "They're serious charges."
Hakimzadah had his case adjourned to April 26, when he will appear by video link.
RCMP said they began investigating in January 2016 after hearing allegations that Hakimzadah had travelled to Turkey during the fall of 2014 to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
They said Hakimzadah was returned to Canada after being detained by Turkish authorities. He was charged Wednesday afternoon with leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group.
Gupta said she learned of the terror investigation last summer after signing on to represent Hakimzadah in an unrelated assault case.
She denied her client was "involved in something like that."
"We're in a culture where anybody could be charged with terrorism — it is a serious count," she said. "The police were investigating this since Jan. 1, 2016. They didn't lay this charge until just yesterday and that, to me, is something that's suspect."
RCMP said Hakimzadah's arrest was part of an extensive national security criminal investigation named Project Sachet. The agency said there was never any risk to public safety at any time during the investigation.
Court records show Hakimzadah was arrested last July and charged with assault, assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats to cause bodily harm in connection with an incident or incidents that took place between July 1 and Aug. 31 of 2015.
That case is still before the courts and Gupta said her client was in custody on those charges when the new terror charge was laid.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press