from the borat-without-the-punchlines dept
For a couple of years, a prominent terrorist remained untouched by Canadian law enforcement. Abu Huzayfah claimed to have traveled to Syria in 2014 to join the Islamic State. A series of Instagram posts detailed his violent acts, as did a prominent New York Times Peabody Award-winning podcast, “Caliphate.”
But Abu Huzayfah, ISIS killer, never existed, something the Royal Canadian Mounted Police verified a year before the podcast began. Despite that, Ontario resident Shehroze Chaudhry — who fabricated tales of ISIS terrorist acts — remained a concern for law enforcement and Canadian government officials, who believed his alter ego was not only real, but roaming the streets of Toronto.
All of this coalesced into Chaudhry’s arrest for the crime of pretending to be a terrorist. Chaudry was charged with violating the “terrorism hoax” law, which is a real thing, even though it’s rarely used. Government prosecutors indicated they intended to argue Chaudhry’s online fakery caused real world damage, including the waste of law enforcement resources and the unquantifiable public fear that Ontario housed a dangerous terrorist.
Chaudry was facing a possible sentence of five years in prison, which seems harsh for online bullshit, but is far, far less than charges of actual terrorism would bring. But it appears everything has settled down a bit and the hoaxer won’t be going to jail for abusing the credulity of others, a list that includes Canadian government officials and New York Times podcasters.
A Canadian man admitted in court on Friday that he made up tales about serving as an Islamic State fighter and executioner in Syria. In exchange, Canadian authorities dropped criminal charges against him of perpetrating a hoax involving the threat of terrorism.
This is pretty much where this was always going to end up. Chaudhry’s acts were stupid, not criminal. That others were taken in by his tales shouldn’t raise it from “potentially embarrassing” to “federally criminal.” And given the fact that the RCMP had already interviewed him and decided not to pursue him as a terrorism suspect nearly a year before he became the central figure in a New York Times podcast indicates the government knew his online persona was a hoax for years before suddenly deciding it should be treated as a criminal act.
Chaudhry is now (mostly) free. He’s no longer facing criminal charges but he will be treated like a criminal for at least the next couple of years.
Under the terms of the peace bond, which is reserved for people who the authorities fear may commit terrorist acts, Mr. Chaudhry must remain in Ontario for the next year and live with his parents. He is prohibited from owning any weapons, must continue to receive counseling and is required to report any changes in his virtual or physical addresses to the police.
Fool us once, shame on us. Fool us for multiple episodes, well… that’s on you, buddy. This has wrapped up one of the weirder tales of the War on Terror, a complete reversal of the expectations here in the US, where it’s the feds who are the fake terrorists.