POLITICS

Terror suspect Awso Peshdary under communication ban, at least for now

02/04/2015 01:38 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Terrorism suspect Awso Peshdary has been barred — at least for the moment — from communicating with several people, partly due to Crown fears of witness intimidation.

The 25-year-old Ottawa man made an initial court appearance Wednesday following his arrest the day before on four charges, including participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

Two other Ottawa men — accused of joining extremists overseas — were also charged with terror-related offences, even though their whereabouts are unknown and one is reportedly dead.

Peshdary's lawyer, Richard Morris, said his client intends to plead not guilty.

"He's doing as well as can be expected," Morris said after the hearing in Ottawa. "He's — as you might expect — a little bit surprised and dismayed by the charges he's facing."

Peshdary's parents, wife and sister attended the hearing.

Morris argued in court there was not enough information to grant the non-communication order, saying he was "still in the dark" as to the reasoning behind it.

Federal prosecutor Rod Sonley said the order was needed to prevent interference with a dozen or so individuals — including members of the Muslim students association at Ottawa's Algonquin College — who might be witnesses or otherwise figure in the case.

Sonley told a justice of the peace there was "more than sufficient" basis for the order and "no evidence to the contrary."

The resulting court order, which will be revisited at a hearing Monday, covers Peshdary's co-accused — John Maguire, 24, and Khadar Khalib, 23 — both of whom the RCMP consider active members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

The extremist organization has been on a vicious, atrocity-riddled rampage across large portions of the Middle East, and is the target of a U.S.-led combat mission in Iraq by a coalition of countries, including Canada.

Peshdary was an associate of Maguire and once hoped to travel abroad with him, according to the RCMP. They believe Peshdary stayed in contact with Maguire, and together they entered into a conspiracy to send other Canadians to Syria to join ISIL.

Peshdary and Maguire collaborated with Khalib, who travelled to Syria at the end of March 2014 to join ISIL, the Mounties say.

The non-communication order also covers twin brothers Ashton and Carlos Larmond as well as Suliman Mohamed — three Ottawa men arrested in January as part of an alleged terrorist conspiracy. The RCMP moved quickly to arrest Carlos at the Montreal airport as he was about to board a plane overseas.

Though there are now terrorism charges against six young men from Ottawa, Sonley played down the notion of direct connections between the two waves of arrests.

"I don't want to leave you with the impression that Mr. Awso Peshdary is directly involved in the alleged offences against Ashton Larmond. They're different proceedings," Sonley said.

"They may have arisen out of the same investigation but they became separate projects at some point."

Morris expressed concern Wednesday that he knew little about the charges against his client and that he was not allowed into an RCMP news conference Tuesday where his client's arrest was announced.

"I think it speaks poorly of the process when they're more concerned with press releases than they are with my client's constitutional rights," Morris said.

"And I remain offended by that."

Peshdary was working at a call centre in August 2010 when he was arrested in apparent connection with another terror probe. However, he was charged only with unrelated assault allegations and later acquitted.

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