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October 14, 2009

Abdelrazik: Canadian Justice

Reuel S. Amdur

Abousfian AbdelrazikAll the forces that the government of Canada could muster were brought to bear on one Canadian man, . 

Yet, he has managed to survive and, against the government’s best efforts, to return to Canada. 

He told his story at Carleton University in Ottawa on October 2.  The Canadian Charger was there. This is his account.

In 1997, he began, a friend told him that the Canadian “mukhabarat” was asking questions about him. 

“Mukhabarat” is an Arabic word for secret police. 

Abdelrazik first personally encountered agents from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 2000, when they came to his apartment.  They wanted him to accompany them to a café for questioning.  He refused to go.  After that, he was shadowed by agents, and people were shown his picture and asked about him. 

After 9/11, CSIS agents again came to see him.  They asked him what he would do if he learned that someone in Canada was planning to do such things here.  “I told them that I would not tell them.  I would go to the police.” 

CSIS agents tried to get him to talk to them more by visiting his wife, who was ill with cancer. 

They went to her father to have him convince her to see them.  They offered her treatment in the United States for her cancer.  They also offered her money to have her inform on him. They even visited her in the hospital a few months before her death.

The agents continued to shadow him, and at the same time he learned that his mother was very ill back in Sudan. 

Abdelrazik decided to go to Sudan to see her. 

Two agents again came to see him before he left.  Once more he refused to go with them to a café.  One of them told him, “We know you are going to Sudan.  You will see.”  Little did he know what that meant when he left Canada.

His mother’s health improved, and after six months he decided to return to Montreal. 

Before he could do so, he was picked up by Sudanese intelligence.  During interrogation, they asked him if he had been bothered by Canadian intelligence. 

They locked him in a small room which was kept cold with an air conditioner.  He received one meal a day for the 12 days he was kept there.  He was permitted to go to the toilet twice a day.  They questioned him about people back in Canada.  Then he was transferred to a prison.

In October, 2003, while in prison he was told that he had visitors from Canada’s mukhabarat.  It was the two agents who had spoken to him before he left for Sudan.  One reminded him, “I told you, ‘You will see.’  Now you will see.  My country doesn’t need you.  Sudan will be your Guantánamo.”

From time to time they moved him from one prison to another. In prison he was beaten, hung up by the wrists to a door frame, and tortured in other ways.  When he went on a hunger strike, they beat him to make him stop.  Another hunger strike led to his being transferred to another prison.  He was released in August, 2004.

The next year, Sudanese officials told him that they had some documents for him from the Canadian government. 

He was suspicious, and so he went to the Canadian embassy to ask the ambassador why they did not give him any documents directly.  The ambassador urged him to go to the Sudanese offices to find out what they had for him.  

  1. They released him again in 2006.

Two years later, he was called by the Canadian embassy to meet officials.  Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs was there.  He peppered Abdelrazik with questions: What did he think about Israel?  about al-Qaida? etc.  He was told that if he did not answer there would be no help for him from Canada.  “So I answered,” he said.  Then he was told that he would have to get himself off the UN 1267 Watch List before he could fly home. 

At that point, Abdelrazik and his lawyer Yavar Hameed decided to go public, and Hameed had him seek refuge in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, much to the upset of the embassy officials.  They pressured him to leave but he ended up staying there for 14 months, till his return home.

Phone calls from Hameed and from Mary Foster, from Project Fly Home, helped to lift his spirits. 

Yet his experiences were harrowing.  He especially missed his children during those six years.

That is the story that Abdelrazik gave. 

There are some details that need to be filled in, however.  Various Canadian MP’s, both Liberal and Conservative, including Paul Martin, visited Khartoum during his ordeal.  None offered to bring him back with them. 

The most despicable behaviour was that of the Conservatives.  They told him that he could only get a travel document to return, to replace his expired passport, once he had transportation arranged back. 

The scheme was that since he was on the UN list he would be unable to find a carrier prepared to take him. 

Hameed found a willing carrier.

The next angle was to insist that he have a ticket paid for, while it was illegal for anyone to give a person on the list any money or anything of value.  That’s when Project Fly Home came in, enlisting a number of Canadians who put up the money “illegally”. 

Finally, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon announced, just a couple of hours before the flight, that the travel document would not be issued anyway, because he was a threat to security. 

Only when Judge Russel Zinn ordered the government to bring him back did he manage to return home.

*

Abdelrazik here and now

Why was it necessary for Abousfian Abdelrazik to seek refuge in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum? 

At the Carleton University session of October 2, Mary Foster, from Project Fly Home, the organization that mobilized donors to violate the law to purchase a plane ticket for him, explained why. 

They had heard that elements in the Sudanese government were getting exasperated by the whole long drawn-out business and were talking about a “permanent solution,” clearly his death. 

Foster also spoke about the current situation.

Abdelrazik is home but not free. 

He still has his name on the UN 1267 Watch List, and as a result he has all assets frozen, is banned from foreign travel, and cannot be paid.  Hence, he cannot get a job. 

Besides, there is still work to do to get a proper accounting from government.  It is necessary that the institutions (such as the Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency, CSIS) and individuals responsible for his treatment be held to account for their behaviour in this case. 

Abdelrazik’s lawyer Yavar Hameed, told the audience at Carleton about some of the ins and outs of the legal situation for Abdelrazik. 

He is part of the legal team suing the Canadian government for $24 million and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon for $3 million, as his personal behaviour in the case constitutes, in the words of the suit, “malfeasance in public office.”

Hameed provided background on the UN 1267 Watch List. 

The list is of people deemed to be associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.  It was set up before 9/11 but most names on the list were added after. 

The list targets, he said, mainly people from Arab and Middle Eastern countries. 

Anyone can be named to the list by members of the Security Council or anyone else bringing a name to the Council for them to place on the list.  For a person’s name to be removed from the list there must be unanimous consent by members of the Security Council.

It appears that the United States put Abdelrazik on the list, and it is uncertain that it would agree to have his name removed. 

The list is not legally binding on Canada, but the Canadian government has put in place a regulation enforcing it, forbidding anyone to give him any financial assistance, directly or indirectly, and seizing any assets. 

The implication is to make it impossible for him to work or to have a bank account.  Hameed states that the regulation violates provisions of the Canadian constitution and is challengeable in the courts. 

He can make a request to get off the list directly to the United Nations, or a state may make such a request.  Canadian officials have refused to meet with Abdelrazik and his lawyers to discuss Canada making such a request.  A few names have been removed from the list.

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