Ottawa agrees to bring Abdelrazik home

Posted by admin on Jun 18th, 2009

Ottawa — The Canadian Press, Thursday, Jun. 18, 2009 07:44PM EDT

A six-year ordeal may soon be over for a Montreal man stranded in Sudan after being falsely accused of terrorist ties. The Harper government said Thursday that it will comply with a court order to let Abousfian Abdelrazik return to Canada. Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn ruled this month that the government breached Mr. Abdelrazik’s constitutional rights by refusing to give him an emergency passport. Judge Zinn ordered him returned within 30 days.

Mr. Abdelrazik and his supporters waited almost two weeks to hear whether the government would follow the order or contest it in a higher court.

Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian with family in Montreal, was arrested but not charged during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see his ailing mother.

He says CSIS and American FBI officers interrogated him over alleged terrorist links.

Sudanese authorities released Mr. Abdelrazik — who denies involvement in extremism — and the RCMP says there is no information linking him to criminal activity.

But the government refused to give him a passport because he remains on a United Nations security watch list, and he has been living in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum for months.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the change of position in the House of Commons.

“The government will comply with the court order,” Mr. Nicholson said in response to a question from Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

He later added: “We’ve acted on the very best legal advice.”

Yavar Hameed, one of Mr. Abdelrazik’s lawyers, welcomed the move.

“Government compliance with the order is an excellent and expected step — something we had hoped for in this file. This first new development is very encouraging.”

Paul Champ, another Abdelrazik lawyer, said the government had sent a letter spelling out a “concrete plan” for Mr. Abdelrazik’s return, but he was unable to share details.

There was also a suggestion Thursday, but no confirmation, that the government would still appeal elements of the court ruling, which concluded that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was complicit in Mr. Abdelrazik’s arrest by the Sudanese.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon could provide no further information.

In his ruling, Judge Zinn said the government’s claim that Mr. Abdelrazik couldn’t fly to Canada due to his inclusion on the UN blacklist was actually “no impediment” to his repatriation.

Scores of Canadians chipped in to buy Mr. Abdelrazik an airline ticket, but his passport had expired and he could not leave Sudan without one.

Mr. Cotler said there were still many unanswered questions — including some about torture — and suggested a special task force or Commons committee be asked to look into the case.

“We need to know, why the government did not act sooner. Why was he languishing in Sudan all these years?”

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar also wants answers.

“Of course the question is why didn’t they make this decision earlier? Why didn’t the government allow one of its citizens to come home?” Mr. Dewar asked.

“It’s a great day for his family that he will finally be able to see his kids.”

In his ruling this month, Judge Zinn said the government violated Mr. Abdelrazik’s Charter right to enter Canada by failing to justify its decision to deny him a temporary travel document.

“He lives by himself with strangers while his immediate family, his young children, are in Montreal. He is as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists,” the judge wrote.

“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.”

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