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RCMP arrest suspect in Montreal on terrorism allegations after tip from FBI

MONTREAL — A Montreal man arrested on terrorism-related concerns was released under strict conditions Thursday as the Crown sought to have him sign a peace bond.
The RCMP logo is seen outside the force's 'E' division headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. RCMP say they have arrested a man in Montreal on terrorism allegations after receiving intelligence from the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

MONTREAL — A Montreal man arrested on terrorism-related concerns was released under strict conditions Thursday as the Crown sought to have him sign a peace bond.

Mohamed Amine Assal, 18, of Montreal's St-Laurent borough, was arrested earlier in the day after the RCMP acted on information from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The police said their operation was to disrupt Assal's "suspicious activities" and get him to sign a terrorism peace bond that could include several conditions.

"The RCMP integrated national security enforcement team received intelligence from the FBI and conducted a short investigation that allows us to have reasonable grounds to fear that Mr. Assal may commit a terrorism offence," Cpl. Tasha Adams said in an interview.

"At this time, no charges are laid. We are currently in the process of acquiring further evidence with regards to this investigation. A search warrant is underway at the residence of the individual."

Assal appeared in court by video while detained at the RCMP offices. He was released under a list of conditions — including the requirement that he wear a GPS tracking device — while authorities await further court hearings on the peace bond.

Other conditions imposed by Quebec court Judge Alexandre Dalmau include handing over his Canadian passport and agreeing not to apply for another, remaining in Quebec, checking in with the RCMP every week and a ban on using a cellphone, except for schooling. He also can't go on social media or consult or possess items that are linked to recognized terror groups.

"Pending the proceedings, the Crown agreed to the release under numerous conditions," federal prosecutor Nancy Perrault told reporters after the hearing. "Those were the conditions we thought were reasonable under the circumstances."

The RCMP did not elaborate on what the alleged offences were, noting they are the subject of an ongoing investigation. 

For its part, the FBI declined to comment. The prosecutor also declined to provide specifics outside the courtroom. "I can tell you that the RCMP feared he may commit a terrorism offence ... because of his exchanges on social media," Perrault said.

According to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, terrorism peace bonds have been entered into in 21 cases, and another six are currently before the courts.

Defence lawyer Michael Morena said despite the strict conditions, the result of Thursday's hearing was positive in that his young client was released.

"Evidently, they're extremely serious and as anyone that would be in this type of situation, it's not easy, he's taking it quite hard," Morena said. "A case is always easier to manage when someone is free, so this is the best-case scenario for him."

The case will return to court on May 4.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press