By PAT WATSON
Why won’t the Canadian government allow Sudan-born Canadian citizen, Abousfian Abdelrazik, to return to his home and family in Montreal?
Abdelrazik, who came to Canada in 1990 as a refugee from Sudan, was due to board a flight out of Khartoum to Abu Dhabi last Friday on the first leg of his flight back to Canada. But, for the fourth time, at least, his effort as well as that of all those who support him was thwarted by the Canadian government’s refusal to issue the father of three a temporary passport or similar legal travel documents.
Abdelrazik, 46, was first detained in Sudan in 2003 on suspicion of being a terrorist when he traveled from Montreal to Khartoum in order to visit his ailing mother. Since that time he had been picked up by the authorities there, detained and interrogated a number of times. He claims that he has also been tortured.
Why was he targeted for interrogation? Reports are that the Sudanese authorities detained Abdelrazik, who is a machinist, at the request of the Canadian government, and that he was identified by American intelligence authorities torture victim and alleged al-Qaeda member, Abu Zubaydah, as being involved in terrorist activities. Abdelrazik has denied this.
Given the torture memo documentation recently revealed by the Obama administration, any reasonable person would have to question the credibility of the information being tortured out of Abu Zubaydah.
What terrorist connection could there be then? Abdelrazik has admitted knowing Ahmed Ressam, the so-called ‘millennium bomber’, but only to the extent that they attended the same mosque. Moreover, RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigations found no evidence that Abdelrazik is a terrorist.
Yet, he is still on the United Nations’ no-fly list. This, ostensibly, is the reason he has spent the past year stranded inside the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum and six years in Sudan, having been denied a Canadian passport needed in order to leave.
The Canadian government did in 2008 apply to have Abdelrazik’s name removed from the UN no-fly list. The action was essentially due process since the petition was initiated by Abdelrazik in the fall of 2007. However, the objection of at least one member of the 15-member UN committee meant the request was denied.
Nevertheless, despite the strict prohibitions laid out to prevent the international travel or transportation of persons on the no-fly list, avenues exist for individuals like Abdelrazik to allow nationals to return to their home country; avenues which the Canadian government has so far declined to use. The Harper government has also cited issues of “national security” as the reason for not giving him a Canadian passport.
Now the government is weighing whether to appeal the June 4 ruling by the Federal Court to bring Abdelrazik home within 30 days, given his Charter right to re-enter his “country of citizenship by choice”.
So why all the foot-dragging on the part of the Harper government on this case? This column has argued before regarding the Abdelrazik case that the fact of his country of origin – being born outside Canada – not to mention that he is a Muslim and ‘non-White’ all seem to weigh heavily again him in the eyes of this government; for it has done its part before to bring home Canadian-born White Canadians struck in foreign jails. Are there really two levels of Canadian citizenship?
Or is it the case, as some have speculated, that the Harper government rejects the RCMP and CSIS findings?
We like to think that we believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, but it seems that does not play out strongly in reality. For if the reason the Harper government isn’t moving to bring Abdelrazik home is because they believe he is involved in terrorist activities, then the least they should be doing is to bring him back to Canada in order to give him a fair trail and get at the truth. Instead, they have him sitting in limbo. This action brings shame on Canada and, more specifically, shame on this government.
Prime Minister Harper, who had been a strong supporter of the Bush administration, has said this week that his government is not going to take in any detainees previously held in America’s Guantanamo Bay prison. So we can get some sense of his position now regarding any issue that relates to terrorists, or suspected terrorists, even those, like Abdelrazik, against whom no charge has ever been laid.
On a questioning note…
We may wonder to what extent the West’s stake in maintaining a steady supply of oil from countries in the Middle East is tied to the civil unrest in Iran, a matter in which we are immediately taking such great interest.