RCMP agent goes over sting operation against Quebecer facing terror charge

By The Canadian Press
December 8, 2016 - 11:30am

MONTREAL — The RCMP pulled out all the stops during an elaborate sting operation to ensnare a Quebec man who is now on trial on a terrorism-related charge, the court heard Thursday.

An officer testified about 22 scenarios employed against Ismael Habib using undercover agents over several months.

The aim was to glean a confession from Habib, 29, who was eventually charged in March with attempting to leave Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group — the Islamic State.

The charge was introduced to the Criminal Code in 2013 and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.

Habib is also charged with giving false information in order to obtain a passport.

His lawyer, Charles Montpetit, has signalled his intention to challenge the admissibility of the evidence gathered, suggesting it was obtained in a Mr. Big operation, in which undercover officers pose as criminals.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 such operations are acceptable under strict conditions, suggesting they often produce unreliable confessions.

In February 2016, Habib confessed, while being filmed without his knowledge, to an undercover agent he thought was a shady crime boss that he intended to join Islamic State in Syria.

The RCMP handler agent, testifying behind a divider, said the objective was to obtain a pure confession without any threats — making sure the interview took place in a non-threatening environment and stressing to Habib that he could leave at any time. 

On Thursday, the agent detailed the slow and steady manoeuvring used to gain Habib's trust.

That included one scenario at Montreal's Old Port where undercover agents — the boss and another who had backstory of wanting to leave the country in a clandestine manner by boat.

In another scenario, Habib went to Bainsville, Ont., near the Quebec-Ontario border, with blank counterfeit passports retrieved from another undercover agent outside the federal passport office in downtown Montreal.

A third agent was waiting in Ontario to make the false passports — something Habib badly wanted to get his hands on. The court heard previously that in June 2014, he'd tried and failed to get a Canadian passport.

Several agents took part in the sting operation over time.

Quebec court Judge Serge Delisle, who is hearing Habib's case, will hear arguments on Mr. Big challenge once the Crown has rested.

Habib was first been detained last February in Gatineau, Que., on unrelated domestic assault charge.

Originally scheduled to last two weeks, Habib's trial likely won't end on Friday, when the defence is expected to cross-examine the witness.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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