A British Columbia man acquitted of terrorism-related charges has filed a lawsuit against the provincial and federal governments, arguing he was maliciously prosecuted in violation of his charter rights.
Othman Hamdan was charged in 2015 over 85 Facebook posts in which he supported some actions of Islamic State militants and celebrated “lone wolf” terrorists. Last year, a B.C. judge ruled his comments might have been offensive, but they didn’t constitute inciting terrorism.
Hamdan has filed a lawsuit that argues Canadian and B.C. authorities prosecuted him despite the absence of probable grounds supporting his guilt and chose to ignore a body of evidence that supported his innocence.
“The conduct of the defendants was reckless, intentional, deliberate, in disregard of the plaintiff’s rights, indifferent to the consequences and exploited the plaintiff’s vulnerability,” says the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Hamdan, 35, is a Jordanian national of Palestinian descent who came to B.C. after living in the United States and was granted refugee status following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has been detained pending the results of an immigration review.
At the time of his arrest, he was living in the northern community of Fort St. John. The Facebook posts were written between September 2014 and July 2015, with one reading, “Lone wolves, we salute you.”
In acquitting Hamdan, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler wrote that he “was trying to highlight what he perceived to be hypocrisy and injustice, support some of the actions of (the Islamic State) in its defence of Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria and promote discussion about these issues.”
Hamdan says in his notice of civil claim that he only learned during trial that the sole evidence being presented against him was the online posts, which he says are constitutionally protected speech and “woefully inadequate evidence to secure a conviction.”
None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit has been proven and no statements of defence have been filed.
Hamdan alleges the Crown never presented the full body of evidence in their possession — hundreds, if not thousands of posts — but simply chose particular posts which fit their theory of the case.
“The only purpose of the plaintiff’s incarceration has been to disrupt him from having access to a computer to voice constitutionally protected speech, in violation of his charter rights,” says the lawsuit.
Hamdan says he remains “unlawfully” incarcerated and has suffered damages including loss of liberty, reputation, privacy and opportunity to earn income, as well as humiliation, pain and suffering.
He adds the defendants’ conduct “offends the moral standards of the community and warrants the condemnation of this court.
“In doing so, they acted in a manner inconsistent with their roles as ministers of justice and with an intention to subvert or abuse the office of the provincial Crown and the process of criminal justice, and so exceeded the boundaries of the office and of the provincial Crown.”
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press