Terrorism peace bond imposed on Edmonton woman who travelled to Islamic State, may have received military training

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An Alberta woman who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State has agreed to a terrorism peace bond, admitting she received military training and applied to join an ISIS battalion before surrendering to Syrian forces.

Aimee Lucia Vasconez was in the Alberta court of justice Wednesday where Justice D’Arcy DePoe imposed a peace bond banning her from travelling, leaving Alberta without permission or accessing the internet for one year, in addition to other conditions.

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Federal Crown prosecutor Monique Dion said Vasconez, 39, left Canada with her husband and two children in 2015 for ISIS-controlled Syria. Dion said the peace bond, under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, will allow for monitoring of Vasconez to ensure she does not participate in terrorism-related activities.

“There are reasonable grounds to fear Ms. Vasconez may participate in a terrorism offence, and that’s meant quite broadly,” she said. That could mean anything from assisting in an attack to counselling someone to join an extremist group, she said.

The peace bond does not require Vasconez to make any admissions to civil or criminal liability regarding her actions in Syria, though defence lawyer Yoav Niv said the bond is likely not the “final chapter in her legal adventures.”

“Since arriving in Canada from very difficult circumstances, Ms. Vasconez has abided by her bail conditions, not presented any security threat, and lived a prosocial lifestyle,” Niv said in an email, adding the conditions placed on Vasconez Wednesday were less strict than those on bail.

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“The reduced conditions she was placed on in the finality of these proceedings are a reflection of that.”

Application for ‘martyrdom’ benefits

Included in the materials for the peace bond are a lengthy affidavit from an RCMP officer assigned to Vasconez’s case, whose sources included material captured from ISIS strongholds.

The state — an enclave carved from western Iraq and eastern Syria — had largely ceased to exist in physical form by 2019, following a military campaign by American, Kurdish and Iraqi forces, but continues to commit terrorist attacks around the world. Followers adhere to an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and many committed war crimes and human rights violations, including genocide of Yazidi people and persecutions of Shia Muslims and Christians.

Among the documents pertaining to Vasconez captured by Syrian forces were an application for “martyrdom benefits” after Vasconez’s first husband was killed in the fighting. Vasconez later remarried, and her second husband was also killed.

The RCMP report says Vasconez’s husband, Ali Abdel-Jabbar, first came to law enforcement attention in 2014 when he and two other men were spotted at the Wabamun Gun Range using illegal extended magazines. By the time the Integrated National Security Enforcement Response Team (INSET) launched its investigation, the family had left the country.

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She was also approved to join an “ISIS battalion,” according to the documents, Dion said. She eventually surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces in February 2019 and spent the following four years in a displaced persons camp for other ISIS families.

Vasconez was one of four women and 10 children repatriated to Canada in April 2023.

Niv noted there are inherent difficulties gathering evidence from a war zone and that none of the RCMP’s sources or documents have been subject to cross-examination or other protections afforded in a criminal trial.

Experts with the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV) — an Alberta-based group that monitors and attempts to de-radicalize extremists — has said Alberta was a source of a disproportionate number of travellers who travelled to the Islamic State in its heyday.

The OPV said Vasconez has been receiving counselling through its programs as well as through an Islamic family services group.

Around 10 conditions have been placed on Vasconez under the peace bond, including requirements to report to a bail supervisor, residency requirements and prohibitions on social media and internet access. She is forbidden from possessing travel documents.

Vasconez was previously subject to house arrest and ankle bracelet monitoring.

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