This fall, the trial of Awso Peshdary will resume in Ottawa. The terrorism trial, a rarity in Canada, will focus on Peshdary’s alleged role in recruiting, financing, and facilitating terrorism.
Awso Peshdary first came to the attention of law enforcement during the 2010 investigation of a bomb plot involving Hiva Alizadeh, Khurram Sher, and Misbahudding Ahmed (Project Somossa). That investigation resulted in two terrorism convictions: Alizadeh pled guilty to recruiting extremists for the plot and Ahmed was convicted and sentence to 12 years in jail as part of the conspiracy. Khurram Sher was acquitted and released.
During the Somossa investigation, Peshdary is reported to have sworn an oath of allegiance to Alizadeh, and “through him to bin Laden.” Peshdary, then 20 years old, was arrested after police overheard an alleged domestic assault. The incident brought an abrupt end to the investigation. Ultimately, Peshdary was acquitted of assault and not charged with any terrorism offences.
In February 2015, Peshdary was arrested again and charged as part of Project Slipstream. Peshdary is alleged to have recruited John Maguire to join the Islamic State. Peshdary and Maguire are believed to have planned to travel to Syria together in 2012, but Peshdary’s passport application was rejected.
Peshdary is also alleged to have helped finance trips for other Canadians (Ashton Larmond, Carlos Larmond, and Suliman Mohamed) to join the Islamic State following his own unsuccessful attempt.
Peshdary does not appear to have been charged with terrorist financing offences, but rather with facilitation offences. However, based on the information available, it appears that at least part of this facilitation was financial in nature. Why he hasn’t been charged with a financing offences is of interest. In previous terrorism financing cases in Canada, larger sums of money are usually involved, such as the LTTE case. However, a case involving smaller sums of money is not without precedent. Momin Khawaja was convicted of terrorism financing offences for helping to finance a UK terrorism plot. In that case, the amount of money provided was around $10,000. So the amount of money involved is not likely the issue; rather, proving the source of funds and their intent may be preventing the laying of a section 83.03 terrorism financing charge.
Analysis: It will be interesting to see how much money Peshdary is alleged to have provided to the would-be travellers, and where he got that money. Self-financing, or diverting funds from personal sources of income, is common amongst individuals seeking to travel to theatres of jihad. Other sources can include donations from friends and family, theft, student loan fraud, etc. It will also be interesting to see what role, if any, financial intelligence played in bringing the charges against Peshdary.