Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, has been charged with "hoax-terrorist activity". (File photo)
The main source for The New York Timesí award-winning podcast, Caliphate, has been arrested and charged with lying about having joined the Daesh terrorist group and committing execution-style killings.
Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, which the top US newspaper had relied on as the core of its reporting, was charged with "hoax-terrorist activity," according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In 2016, Chaudhry began using social media posts to talk about his role with the Takfiri group and also took part in several media interviews, however, a lengthy investigation by Royal Canadian Mounted Police found he had no links to the terrorists.
"The charge stems from numerous media interviews where the accused ... claimed he traveled to Syria in 2016 to join the terrorist group ISIS (Daesh) and committed acts of terrorism," the RCMP said in a statement.
Sgt. Lucie Lapointe, a spokeswoman for the Mounted Police, said that Chaudry featured extensively in "Caliphate" under the name Abu Huzayfah.
He described in harrowing detail his role in executions during the podcast. The Times, however, declined to discuss its sourcing, downplaying the severity of the controversy.
"The uncertainty about Abu Huzayfahís story is central to every episode of Caliphate that featured him," Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement.
She also noted that one episode confirmed that Abu Huzayfah had misled the major media outlet about the dates of his travel to Syria and the timeline of his radicalization.
"The episode tells listeners what our journalists knew for sure and what was still unknown," she said.
The Times said it "had used geolocation to place Mr. Huzayfah on the banks of the Euphrates river in Syria."
The show, which has attracted millions of listeners, is one of the most popular podcasts in the world and the Timesí public relations team actively boasts of its work on Caliphate in press releases.
Chaudhry was personally featured or mentioned in the prologue and nine of the 10 episodes.
When news broke that Abu Huzayfah was a fraud named Chaudry, Rukmini Callimachi, the host of the podcast, tried to distract from the scandal by claiming her podcast raised concerns about Chaudhryís narrative in episode six.
Callimachi, however, did not mention that she continued to use "Abu Huzayfah" as a source in episodes seven, eight, and 10.
1. Big news out of Canada: Abu Huzayfah has been arrested on a terrorist "hoax" charge. The narrative tension of our podcast "Caliphate" is the question of whether his account is true. In Chapter 6 we explain the conflicting strands of his story, and what we can and canít confirm https://t.co/w0CbPGvzeA
- Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) September 25, 2020
In Caliphate, he claims to have executed two people as a member of Daesh in Syria, but the story was thrown into doubt as it contradicted what he told CBC News.
"Hoaxes can generate fear within our communities and create the illusion there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise," RCMP Superintendent Christopher deGale said in a statement.
Chaudry, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Burlington, Ontario, will appear in court in November and if convicted, he will face up to five years in prison under Canadaís terrorism hoax laws.