A Canadian man who was placed on the UN's terrorism watch list and stranded in Sudan for six years, but never charged with a crime, took his case to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's home turf Monday.
Abousfian Abdelrazik speaks to the media inside Stephen Harper's constituency office in Calgary on Monday. Abdelrazik and his supporters delivered a letter to Harper. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
Accompanied by a dozen supporters, Abousfian Abdelrazik knocked on the door of the prime minister's Calgary Southwest constituency office and entered to deliver a personal letter.
"The two of us came from Montreal and we're here with a lot of supporters, and we'd just like to give you a message that we hope you can fax immediately to Mr. Harper," said Mary Foster, who is travelling with Abdelrazik on his countrywide speaking tour
"What he's asking for is that Mr. Harper does now listen to his request that he's launched several times before. We finally decided to come straight to Calgary and visit you in your home riding."
The receptionist informed the group that Harper was not in Calgary but said she was willing to forward the message to his office in Ottawa. Any follow-up information, she added, would have to be pursued there.
The Montreal man was arrested, but not charged, during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see his ill mother. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was "complicit" in the arrest, A Federal Court judge ruled last year.
Though Sudan, the RCMP and CSIS all subsequently cleared Abdelrazik, it took three years for him to be able to return home, because the Canadian government refused to grant him a replacement passport for the one that expired while he was in a Sudanese jail.
"Just please listen to these people if you don't listen to me," said Abdelrazik in his plea to the prime minister. "I sent you a message from my exile in the Sudan. If you don't want to listen to me because of my religion, because of my colour, just please listen to these people and do what they want, what they ask you to do."
'Mr. Abdelrazik has had his rights denied. I think that the Canadian government needs to take action'—Peggy Askin, supporter
In his letter he asks that all sanctions imposed upon him since his arrest be lifted, that he receive a personal apology from the government and that he be compensated for his suffering.
"Lift the sanctions immediately because it's very urgent. After seven years ... it still continues. I don't know when it's going to end. These years have gone away from my life and I need compensation for that."
Abdelrazik has already filed a lawsuit against Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and the federal government for $27 million.
Only Canadian on terrorism watch list
The only other Canadian to have appeared on the UN terrorism watch list is Ahmed Said Khadr, who was killed by Pakistani forces in 2003. He was a purported ranking member of al-Qaeda and a close associate of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Khadr's son, Omar, was sentenced last month by a U.S. military tribunal to eight years in prison for war crimes. The 24-year-old has been in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the last eight years and will spend at least one more year there in accordance with a plea agreement.
Both CSIS and the RCMP have acknowledged they have no evidence against Abdelrazik. He was exonerated of any ties with al-Qaeda by the Sudanese Justice Department in 2005. But efforts to have his name removed from the UN list have been unsuccessful. The federal government and other authorities have continued to apply the sanctions.
Ottawa cited the list while refusing to grant Abdelrazik travel documents after he was released from a Sudanese prison, where he alleges he was tortured. He spent 14 months in legal limbo living in the lobby of the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum.
"I consider Mr. Abdelrazik heroic and a courageous Canadian," said Peggy Askin, a retired president of the Calgary and District Labour Council who showed up to support him. "The violations of rights going on right now in Canada are increasing every day.
"Mr. Abdelrazik has had his rights denied. I think that the Canadian government needs to take action and take action immediately to make sure all of the conditions you are living under are ended."
Under a UN Security Council resolution, Ottawa has the power to punish anyone who provides Abdelrazik with material support. Even if he got a paycheque, he couldn't withdraw funds from his bank account. After a court battle, he won an injunction that allowed him limited monthly withdrawals from his credit union account.
Canada tried to have Abdelrazik's name removed from the UN list in 2007 but was rebuffed. Any member of the Security Council can veto a de-listing request without offering an explanation.