‘I understand Islam better than you’: Teen facing terror charges saw Canada as ‘land of war’

MONTREAL — RCMP investigator did his best to persuade the 15-year-old suspect sitting across from him that they were not all that different. They were both Muslim immigrants from North Africa, eldest sons and Arabic speakers, he noted.

The boy, who had just been arrested for a convenience store armed robbery and was suspected of planning to leave to join the jihad in Syria, was having none of it.

“You are a traitor,” the teen, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, told Soussi. He said that by working for the Canadian state, the police officer was complicit in “crimes against Muslims. … You betray your brothers. You are no longer their brother. You are an apostate.”

Over the course of the two-hour interview, a video of which was introduced as evidence at the teen’s trial in a Montreal court on Wednesday, he remained silent on most questions touching the robbery. But he could not resist spouting off when Soussi questioned his religious knowledge.

“I understand Islam better than you,” he told Soussi, citing as his source the father of Wahhabism, an austere form of Islam that interprets the Koran literally.

Christinne Muschi for National PostChristinne Muschi for National PostDepanneur Esposito seen in Montreal, Quebec, September 8, 2015.

The boy, who turned 16 this year, elaborated on his beliefs, which he said he had gleaned from the Internet. The police officer was not a true Muslim because he worked to enforce laws other than Allah’s, he said.

He accused Canada of “massacring his brothers and sisters” by taking part in the armed mission against ISIL in Iraq. The government sent its troops, and in a democracy the government is elected by the people, he said. “So the people are at fault. Oh, yes.” Democratic governments must be removed, “by force if necessary,” he said.

The convenience store that had been robbed at knifepoint was a legitimate target because Canada was “a land of war” fighting against Islam, he said. The goods of unbelievers, he added, can be seized as the “spoils of war.” He said he felt no remorse for his actions.

The teen pleaded guilty to the holdup last year. He is on trial in Quebec Court’s youth division on one charge of committing a crime “for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group” and a second charge of attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of aiding a terrorist group.

The trial heard that it was his father who alerted police after he discovered his son’s backpack hidden in their yard, containing a knife, a bag of cash and a scarf. RCMP agent Salvador Calderon testified that he met with the father soon afterwards. “He was very nervous because he had confronted his son, and his son wanted to leave the country to fight with a terrorist group,” Calderon said. He said he assured the father the RCMP would do everything possible to stop his son from getting on a plane.

Days later, the boy was arrested at the prestigious Montreal private school he attended.

During his interrogation, he said his parents had told him to disobey God and that his father was an apostate. He said his religious beliefs led him to give up karate and drop a Mandarin class at school because the teachers required that he bow. “You must not bow down before anyone other than Allah,” he said.

It’s not reading two articles and watching some videos on the Internet that makes you such a Muslim

Soussi repeatedly tried to persuade the boy that things were not so black and white. For example, bowing in karate is an act of respect, not submission, he told him.

“It’s not reading two articles and watching some videos on the Internet that makes you such a Muslim,” he said. “You’re 15 years old. People spend 30 years studying religion before they will sit down and be able to say, this is good, this is bad.”

He also warned the boy against the danger of being used by others. “You are at an age where you are easily manipulated,” he said. “Anyone can sing any song, and it will sound nice to your ears so you will want to follow it, and before you realize it you are going to have lots of problems.”

The boy’s defence lawyers sought to have the video of the interrogation excluded as evidence on the grounds that his rights had been violated, but Judge Dominique Wilhelmy ruled Wednesday that it was admissible.

About Graeme Hamilton