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Sister's concerns that sibling was radicalized opened door to terror investigation

The Gazette logo The Gazette 2017-02-17 Paul Cherry, Montreal Gazette
021617-0227_city_teen_radicals_04-0217_city_Djermane-W.jpg © Peter McCabe

The love of a protective older sister was what touched off an RCMP investigation into a young Montreal couple who are scheduled to go to trial in September on terror-related charges. 

In April 2015, the RCMP suspected that Sabrine Djermane, 20, and her boyfriend El Mahdi Jamali, 20, were preparing to follow a group of young Collège de Maisonneuve students who were believed to have already left Canada to fight with the terrorist group ISIS in Syria. While investigating that possibility the RCMP also found evidence the couple were preparing to set off a homemade bomb, possibly in Montreal. 

They are charged with attempting to leave Canada with the goal of committing a crime in another country, being in possession of an explosive substance, facilitating a terrorist activity and committing a criminal act for the benefit or under the direction of a terrorist group by having an explosive substance under their control. A conviction under the last charge carries a maximum life sentence.

Affidavits prepared by RCMP investigators have been under a publication ban for two years. For several months, the Montreal Gazette and other media outlets have requested a court’s permission to publish what is contained in those affidavits and, on Thursday, a Superior Court judge partially lifted the publication ban on them. The details contained in the affidavits are allegations and have not been proven in court. 

The RCMP knew nothing about Djermane and Jamali’s alleged plans until one of her siblings decided to intervene. With stories about Collège de Maisonneuve students who left for Syria being reported on frequently at the time, Djermane’s older sister (the Montreal Gazette has decided not to publish her name) was concerned her younger sibling was heading there as well. On April 10, 2015, she called the RCMP and said she believed her sister was being drawn to a radicalized form of Islam. Weeks before making the call, Djermane’s older sister had attended a conference in Ottawa intended to instruct Muslims on how to spot signs their relatives or friends were heading in that direction. 

(Djermane’s older sister) explained that after having followed a conference on the subject in Ottawa, she has since become sensitized to this phenomena and that is why she has fears for her sister. Sabrine Djermane had (recently) left her family’s home (and moved to an apartment), was isolated from her entourage and abandoned her courses at (Collège de) Maisonneuve,” an RCMP investigator wrote in an affidavit filed early in the investigation. 

The following day, on April 11, 2015, the elder sister called the RCMP again and said one of Djermane’s friends and another sister of Djermane’s had “confirmed that they also had fears that Sabrine could leave for Syria.” 

On April 13, 2015, an analyst for the RCMP confirmed that Djermane had recently moved into an apartment on Aird Ave. and had nearly maxed out all of the $10,000 in credit she had available to her. A verification on their passports revealed that both Djermane and Jamali had valid passports but had recently made requests for new ones. 

pcherry@postmedia.com

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