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Canadian Press, Thursday, June 4, 2009

Court orders government to let Abdelrazik return

by Jim Bronskill

OTTAWA — A judge has ordered the Harper government to arrange the return of a Montreal man stranded for years in Sudan.

Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn says the government breached Abousfian Abdelrazik's constitutional rights by not giving him an emergency passport to fly home. Zinn ordered him returned within 30 days.

Abdelrazik, a Canadian with family in Montreal, was arrested but not charged during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see his ill mother. He says CSIS and American FBI officers interrogated him over alleged terrorist links.

Sudanese authorities have released Abdelrazik, who denies involvement in extremism, and the RCMP says there is no information linking him to criminal activities.

He has been living in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum.

In his judgment released Thursday, Zinn said the government violated Abdelrazik's Charter rights by failing to justify its decision to deny him a passport.

"In this case, the refusal of the emergency passport effectively leaves Mr. Abdelrazik as a prisoner in a foreign land, consigned to live the remainder of his life in the Canadian Embassy or leave and risk detention and torture."

The judge said the government did not follow set procedures in refusing the travel document, nor did it explain whether Abdelrazik posed a security risk if returned to Canada.

Zinn also found:

  • CSIS was "was complicit in the detention" of Abdelrazik six years ago;
  • By mid-2004 Canadian authorities had determined they would not take any active steps to assist the man's return to Canada, and would consider refusing him a passport in order to thwart his homecoming;
  • The government's claim that Abdelrazik couldn't fly to Canada due to his inclusion on a United Nations security blacklist was actually "no impediment" to his repatriation.

More than 140 Canadians chipped in to buy Abdelrazik an airline ticket earlier this year. But he could not leave Sudan without a passport.
Zinn said if the unused ticket is no longer valid, the government must pay his airfare.

Paul Champ, one of Abdelrazik's lawyers, called the ruling "pretty great."

"We're starting to see more and more cases where the Federal Court is becoming more circumspect about the actions of CSIS, and this is yet one more example of that."

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