What next for Aaron Yoon, Canadian released from Mauritian jail?

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
What next for Aaron Yoon, Canadian released from Mauritian jail?

A Canadian being held in Mauritian jail on charges related to plotting terrorism has been released and could be heading back to Canada, but what comes next for London, Ont., native Aaron Yoon is still unclear.

He was imprisoned for having ties to a terrorist group, but the claim have been largely discredited. He was best friends with two London, Ont., youths who died in a recent terror attack, but was in jail long before the plot was executed. He is a riddle, an enigma wrapped in shadowy context and a clean slate all at once.

Yoon, 24, who has been held in a West African jail since December 2011, was released earlier this week and immediately taken into custody by Mauritanian security forces. CBC News reports he has been issued a temporary Canadian passport and will likely be returned to the country in the next couple of days.

Yoon's incarceration was kept a secret from even his family until earlier this year, when two friends, former high school classmates and travel companions were killed in a terror attack on an Algerian power plant.

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The RCMP confirmed Xris Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej were found dead at the site of an attack plotted by an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group.

Yoon was already in prison when it took place, although Mauritian officials claim he has connections to a terrorist organization. Yoon says he converted to Islam and travelled to West Africa with Katsiroubas and Medlej, but his intentions were only to learn Arabic and study the Qur'an.

Yoon has claimed he is innocent of the charges against him and that he was tortured into signing a confession. Amnesty International supports the claim, identifying torture as a coercive method frequently used by Mauritian police.

Earlier this month, a judge cut Yoon's sentence short and released him from prison. He is expected to return to Canada soon, although it is not clear what type of reception he will receive.

While he is not charged with a crime in Canada, it is likely security officials will want to meet with him. A recently-passed anti-terror law allows Canadian security officials to "compel" terror suspects into divulging information, although the new authority may be too heavy handed to use in such a gray matter.

“The bill only came into effect last week, and we have not sought [attorney-general] permission for an investigative hearing," an RCMP spokesperson told the Globe and Mail.

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Queen's University political science professor Christian Leuprecht says it is likely RCMP or Canadian security officials will monitor Yoon when he returns to the country.

"There is a wide range of concerns that he might come here and possibly carry out an attack or plot to carry out an attack. That he might recruit suspects, which is one of the charges he was facing in Mauritania," Leuprecht told CBC's The Current.

He added that Canadian officials could be concerned about what association he might have developed overseas, but stressed those are only concerns.

Considering Yoon is not charged with a crime in Canada, and not suspected, openly, anyway, of participating in any terror plots, he should be free to return to his regular life.

Yoon's return will be celebrated by his family, who say it is a relief to know he will be home soon.

“He said he’d be soon coming home. I don’t know when,” mother Martha Yoon told the London Free Press. “He needs medical attention. . . . He hasn’t been to the doctor for a long time.”