The Globe and Mail, Friday, March 13, 2009
THE ABDELRAZIK CASE
Canadians defy law in bid to bring home one of their own
More than 100 supporters
chip in for airfare for Canadian exiled in Sudan
Les Perreaux AND Bill Curry
MONTREAL and OTTAWA -- More than
100 Canadians have chipped in airfare and exposed
themselves to criminal prosecution in an effort to force
Ottawa to allow a Canadian citizen to fly home from
Sudan, where he's been stranded since being labelled an
al-Qaeda operative by the United Nations.
The donors, including teachers, students and a couple
of dozen university professors from across Canada,
bought a $997 airline ticket for Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Now, they say, it's up to the Harper government to
live up to a promise to give him travel documents for
his April 3 flight from Khartoum to Toronto via Abu
Mr. Abdelrazik, 47, is lost in a legal no-man's land.
Canadian and Sudanese authorities have cleared him of
being a terrorist suspect after years of questioning,
imprisonment and torture.
But he remains on the UN terror list at the behest of
the United States, according to his lawyer.
The Canadian government gave Mr. Abdelrazik
"temporary safe haven" at the Khartoum embassy nearly a
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Emma Welford would not
say whether emergency travel documents will be issued,
as promised, saying only that Canada is obliged to
enforce a United Nations travel ban on Mr. Abdelrazik.
But that travel ban specifically permits citizens to
return to their home countries.
Ms. Welford declined to comment on that section.
The Harper government has imposed increasingly
difficult conditions on the return of Mr. Abdelrazik, at
first saying he would need only a confirmed airline
reservation and later a paid-for ticket before he would
get the temporary passport.
At the same time, the government has warned it could
charge anyone who helps the destitute man obtain
Mr. Abdelrazik's benefactors went ahead anyway.
Assembled through word of mouth and Facebook, they are
flouting a sweeping federal anti-terrorism law banning
Canadians from offering financial help to anyone on the
UN terror watch list.
If prosecuted, the donors could face up to 10 years
"I'm taking it seriously, I'm definitely afraid,"
said Cory Legassic, a Montreal school teacher who gave
"I admit I'm a coward, I don't know if I would do
this alone. But if I'm going to jail, there's 115 of us
... it's going to get very messy."
Ms. Welford said proper authorities would decide if
the law has been broken.
Former Iraq hostages James Loney and Harmeet Singh
Sooden and former Liberal solicitor-general Warren
Allmand are among the donors. Saskatchewan farmer David
Orchard, who has dabbled in Progressive Conservative and
Liberal leadership politics, gave $400.
Mr. Abdelrazik, a former Montreal resident with three
children and an ex-wife living in Canada, was arrested
in Sudan in 2003 when he was visiting his sick mother.
Documents show both CSIS and the RCMP have informed
Foreign Affairs there is no evidence Mr. Abdelrazik
belongs on the UN list. Meanwhile, a routine CSIS
summary continues to allege that he was trained in
Afghanistan and "is an important Islamic Jihad
Sudanese officials have declared him innocent.
NDP MP Paul Dewar, who has been raising Mr.
Abdelrazik's case in the House of Commons, says the
government also needs to be more forthcoming about
CSIS's role in Mr. Abdelrazik's detention in Sudan.
Government documents have suggested Mr. Abdelrazik
was arrested in Sudan at the behest of CSIS, Canada's
Mr. Dewar says that raises questions as to whether
this is a case of Canada participating in a CIA-style
rendition along the lines of Canadian Maher Arar, who
was detained and tortured in a Syrian prison.
Mr. Abdelrazik's Canadian lawyer, Yavar Hameed, says
the answer is clear.
"This is a case of extraordinary rendition," he said.
"We had Maher Arar, and now this."