MONTREAL — The Mounties are seeking a peace bond for a 22-year-old former kickboxing champion from Montreal, citing a section of the law designed to combat terrorism.
Merouane Ghalmi, who is believed to also go by the name Saad, will appear in court Thursday morning after the RCMP applied for a recognizance order, or peace bond, against him earlier this week.
Section 810.01 of the Criminal Code allows the courts to restrict the activities of individuals believed to be on the verge of committing a criminal or terrorist act for a period of up to 12 months.
Ghalmi has not been charged with any crime and nothing has been proven in court.
The application for such an order in a suspected terror case is an exceedingly rare occurrence, in part owing to what police have complained is a high evidentiary threshold. A federal anti-terrorism bill being debated in Parliament has proposed lowering that standard so that police would need to prove only that an individual “may” commit a terrorism offence instead of having to prove that they “will” do so.
Police already filed an affidavit laying out their evidence against Ghalmi, but it has not been made public. Dan Brien, a spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, refused to provide any additional details in the case.
If Ghalmi agrees to abide by the terms of the peace bond, his case would mark the first time that such measures have been applied to a suspected national security threat in Quebec, Brien said.
A person who answered the telephone at Ghalmi’s residence in Pierrefonds, a suburb west of Montreal, hung up after learning that the caller was a reporter. Messages left with Facebook friends and the owner of the Montreal kickboxing gym where Ghalmi trained were not immediately returned.
Peace bonds have been issued sparingly in past terrorism cases, most notably when it was employed against several members of the Toronto 18 terror plot. A number of the young men who were initially accused of planning attacks in 2006 against Parliament and the CBC building in Toronto, and detonating three truck bombs later had charges against them dropped but were subject to a peace bond because they were still considered a risk to public safety.
Ali Mohamed Dirie, a Toronto 18 member who served a jail sentence for smuggling weapons into Canada on behalf of the group, was released from prison in 2011 and subjected to a two-year peace bond. After a year, he stopped reporting to police as required and disappeared. He was reported to have been killed in the fall of 2013 after having fled Canada to join the fighting in Syria.
While little is know about Ghalmi’s recent activities, a website maintained by Montreal’s Thai Long muy thai kickboxing gym lists him as having had a fighting weight of 140 pounds and a record of four wins and one loss in his discipline, which is a martial art invented in Thailand.
In a video of his what is believed to have been his last fight, on May 26, 2012, a tall, slim and confident Ghalmi wins a technical knockout over his opponent.
Shortly after, the young champion effectively disappeared, according to the owner of the gym where Ghalmi trained. Jacques Zorayan told the Journal de Montréal that Ghalmi had explained that family difficulties prevented him from continuing his training. He never returned.
His Facebook page, in which Ghalmi goes by the name of Saad, includes links to his old kickboxing club as well as a number of Islamic organizations and prominent Muslims leaders in Quebec.
Among them is Hamza Chaoui, a Montreal imam who was targeted earlier this year by municipal authorities and referred to by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre as “an agent of radicalization. Upon learning that Chaoui was planning to open an Islamic Centre in the city’s east end, officials held an emergency meeting to block the application and redraft city zoning laws to prevent organizations registered as cultural associations from hosting religious indoctrination.
There is no indication that Chaoui and Ghalmi knew one another, although they share some of the same online acquaintances in the city’s Muslim community.