A 24-year-old Canadian who has been held in a Mauritanian prison since December 2011 on terror-related charges, has been released and will be deported to Canada soon, the CBC reported.
The man, Aaron Yoon, was sentenced to two years in prison last July after being convicted of having ties to an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group that operates in the North African region and of posing a danger to Mauritanian national security.
A Mauritanian court decided earlier this month to release Yoon for time served, roughly 18 months, and rejected prosecutors' requests to have his sentence extended to 10 years, according to the CBC.
The Korean-Canadian was released at dawn Tuesday and turned over to Mauritanian intelligence officials for questioning. He is expected to be deported to Canada soon, travelling on a temporary passport he was given by authorities.
Yoon's release was facilitated by Canadian diplomats in Morocco, according to a CBC reporter.
Neither the RCMP nor the Canadian government have commented on Yoon's release, but Canadian security officials "might want to have a conversation" with him when he arrives in Canada, noted CBC.
Yoon was accused by Mauritanian authorities of having links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and it later emerged that he had travelled to North Africa with two fellow Canadians who were involved in an attack on an Algerian gas plant in January that ended with the deaths of 37 hostages and 29 attackers.
Yoon reportedly travelled to Morocco, which borders Algeria, with Ali Medlej and Xris Katsiroubas, who attended the same high school as Yoon in London, Ontario. Medlej and Katsiroubas were among the dead attackers found at the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, said the CBC.
Yoon has claimed that his sole purpose for travelling to the North African region was for religious study. Before he was arrested, he attended a religious school in Mauritania, reportedly with Americans and Europeans, where he studied the Qur'an. Yoon was raised a Catholic but converted to Islam a year before graduating from London South Collegiate Institute.
Yoon has insisted that he didn't know how Medlej and Katsiroubas became linked with terrorists. In interviews with members of Amnesty International and the CBC he said he first heard of the gas plant attack while in prison.
Yoon told Amnesty International representatives who visited him in prison that he was tortured and forced to give a false confession. The human rights group called his claims "certainly credible and completely consistent with the wider pattern that we've known to be the case for quite some time in Mauritania."