Harry Ahmed, a candidate for Ward 5 in Barrie's upcoming municipal election, was arrested and charged with extortion by city police on Friday.
But according to Ahmed, he’s innocent and is choosing to keep his head held high while continuing to campaign and focus on issues facing Barrie residents.
“I’m totally innocent... it has nothing to do with me. It’s a 'he-said, she-said' and we are in the middle of it,” Ahmed said Wednesday. “The matter is in court and I have complete faith that they will see the end of it.
“This could happen to anybody. Anybody could be accused of anything,” he added.
On Friday morning, the 41-year-old Ahmed says that after getting coffees for his family, opening their automotive repair shop and talking with co-workers, he left the shop in his car to start knocking on doors for the day.
After turning off Bradford Street onto Dunlop Street, Ahmed says he was pulled over by Barrie police. He thought at the time it was just a run-of-the-mill traffic stop until he saw officers drawing their guns.
“They told me, ‘You’re under arrest.’ I told them this was a shocker to me... I had no idea.”
Ahmed says officers then took him to the Barrie police station where he was informed of the charges and that he would be going for a bail hearing.
He thinks that Barrie police keeping him at the police station until 4 p.m. was no accident.
“There was no way I could have gone for my bail hearing (that day). Being honest with you, (I think) they just wanted to hold me for the weekend," Ahmed said.
Ahmed was held in custody pending a bail hearing, which happened Tuesday. He was released on $10,000 bail.
“I was totally shocked. I was counting on that weekend to go out, knock on doors, have a turkey dinner with my family. This was shocking for me and my family,” he said.
Ahmed says no one from any police force contacted him at any time prior to being arrested to ask him about the allegations or get his side of the story.
“This could have been dealt with differently by Barrie police. They could have called me, I would have checked in... but they made a big scene out of it, pulling me over in the middle of Dunlop Street, drawing their weapons and all that," he said.
Ahmed says he hopes his supporters will stand by him while the charge make its way through the courts and hopes it won’t hurt his election chances.
“The people who know me, my supporters, they know me. They know I’m a father and a member of this society, and I’m not like that,” he said. “More likely, I think I might gain more support when people see what happened to me.
"When this happens in the middle of elections, it’s over nothing. I don’t even know why," Ahmed added. "We’re trying to find out what happened, and who says what. It’s totally obvious to me.”
Ahmed says he has no problems answering any questions voters might have for him and is encouraging them to reach out.
“At this point... over the next 11 to 12 days I’m full throttle, on the road, knocking on all the doors one more time," he said. "If voters want to know what happened, I have no problem explaining. I just want to get this (the extortion charge) over with, go back to my work, house and family.”
Ahmed campaigned for the position of Barrie mayor in 2010, garnering 305 votes, and also sought the Ward 5 council seat in 2014 when he received 231 votes.
Ahmed was arrested shortly after 9 a.m. Friday by Barrie police, assisted by the Biker Enforcement Unit.
Due to the nature of the investigation, Barrie police have said they will only be releasing further details as the investigation allows.
The Biker Enforcement Unit is a joint forces operation created in June 1998. The unit is comprised of 18 municipal agencies, the RCMP and CISO, partnered with its lead agency, the Ontario Provincial Police.
According to court documents, there is a publication ban in place on all details of the case released during the bail hearing on Tuesday.
Ahmed is scheduled to be back in court for a first appearance on Nov. 5.