NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – A Mauritanian official and Amnesty International say a 24-year-old Canadian man sentenced to 18 months in prison for alleged ties to al-Qaida’s North Africa branch has been freed.
The official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not directly responsible for the release, said Aaron Yoon would be kept under police surveillance until he was sent back to Canada. The official did not say when that would happen.
“All that we know is that he has been released,” said John Tackaberry, spokesman for Amnesty International in Ottawa.
Yoon travelled to the region with two other Canadians who were implicated in a large-scale terror attack on a natural gas plant in southeastern Algeria earlier this year. He was arrested in Mauritania in December 2011.
Earlier this month, a court ordered his release after he was sentenced to 18 months in prison — the same amount of time he had already served.
A spokesperson in Ottawa for the Foreign Affairs Department confirmed the release.
“We are aware that a Canadian jailed in Mauritania is in the process of being released,” Jean-Bruno Villeneuve said in an email.
“We are not going to comment any further on this case.”
Yoon has denied that he had any ties to terrorism, saying he came to Mauritania only to learn Arabic and study the Qur’an.
He has told Amnesty International that he was tortured by his captors.
Yoon reportedly travelled to the region with two other Canadians who were implicated in a terror attack on a natural gas plant in southeastern Algeria earlier this year, which ended with the deaths of 37 hostages.