TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian resident who officials have alleged is an “integral member” of a Pakistani militant group must remain in detention while awaiting a deportation hearing, an immigration review board said on Friday.
Lawyers representing Canada’s minister of public safety told the board that Muhammad Aqeeq Ansari, a Pakistani software designer and permanent resident of Canada, created and maintained a website for Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which they describe as a militant group engaged in acts of terrorism.
Ansari poses a danger to the public and may not appear for further hearings if released, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada said in explaining its decision to extend detention, which has so far lasted six weeks.
No date has been set for his deportation hearing. The next review of his detention is due on Dec. 19.
Ansari was arrested in October, days after two Canadian soldiers were killed in attacks that heightened tensions about potential security threats in the country.
Police had alleged Ansari has ties to militants in Pakistan, possessed an arsenal of firearms, and expressed extreme views on Twitter, though he does not face criminal charges.
Ansari, speaking via video link from detention, told the hearing earlier this week that he “never had any ill intentions” and his lawyer argued that the state’s case was based on suspicion of his ideological views rather than any allegation of wrongdoing.
Ansari’s lawyer, Anser Farooq, told reporters after a hearing on Wednesday that he considered it a “strategic decision” by authorities to put his client through the immigration review process rather than a criminal trial where the burden of proof would be higher.
Ansari came to the attention of police in 2012, when they raided his Peterborough, Ontario home over a stockpile of weapons he had legally collected. During their search they say they found audio files in support of jihad and sermons from cleric Muhammad Ilas Ghuman, the leader of ASWJ.
Ansari gave up the guns and pleaded guilty to one charge of careless handling of firearms in March 2013, for which he received a conditional discharge and one-year probation.
He was also previously charged with mischief after removing from a store newspapers published for the Ahmadi sect of Islam, but that charge was dropped.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and David Gregorio