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Tamil migrant ship passenger involved in suicide bombing can stay, ruling says

Some the estimated 490 people thought to be Tamil migrants aboard the ship MV Sun Sea peer out from underneath a tarp after Canadian Border officials and police brought the ship into Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in Colwood, British Columbia on Vancouver Island August 13, 2010.


A Tamil who says he had to flee Sri Lanka after the Tigers used one of his possessions in a suicide bombing should not be deported, an immigration adjudicator has ruled.

The adjudicator Michael McPhalen has rejected the government's effort to have the passenger aboard the migrant ship MV Sun Sea deported after concluding there is no credible evidence the man knew he was helping the terrorist organization in the bombing.

A Canadian government lawyer pointed to interviews with the man's wife in which she says her husband helped the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, a terrorist group that has been banned in Canada.

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But in later interviews, the man's wife recanted.

The woman "is clearly motivated by a desire to help her husband, rather than a desire to tell the truth," Mr. McPhalen wrote in the decision released Friday.

He noted that in the last of three interviews, the woman took so long to respond to questions, they had to be repeated.

"My impression of her testimony was that she was someone who knew that she had made a real mess of things for her husband and that she was afraid to answer."

As a result, Mr. McPhalen said he simply couldn't rely on any of her testimony.

In contrast, the adjudicator said he found her husband's testimony was frank and didn't change over the course of several interviews.

The man told immigration authorities that he sympathized with the Tiger cause and viewed its leader as a good person. He even had some Tiger propaganda on his web page.

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But that doesn't amount to membership in the organization, Mr. McPhalen found. Instead, Mr. McPhalen concluded the man was credible when he claimed that he had no knowledge that the possession he sold was to be used in a suicide bombing.

The government's lawyer didn't offer any evidence that he did know, beyond the problematic statements of his wife.

"There is no credible evidence that Mr. X was knowingly involved in a bombing incident," Mr. McPhalen wrote.

The migrant and his wife cannot be identified due to a publication ban. Mr. McPhalen's ruling was redacted and exactly what possession was later used in the suicide bombing has been omitted from the document.

The migrant was among nearly 500 men, women and children arrived in B.C. aboard the MV Sun Sea last year. All were ethnic Tamils from war-torn Sri Lanka, and all made refugee claims.

Most have been released, but seven have been ordered deported.

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Admissibility hearings for 50 are pending and a dozen or so have been moved to Toronto.

Eight men remain in detention in the Vancouver area.

In a separate ruling also released Friday, Mr. McPhalen ordered a crew member of the MV Sun Sea deported.

The man had argued that he feared for his life, so he made his way to Thailand and made contact with someone who said he would help the man go to a good country.

When he arrived at the dock and boarded the vessel, he was with about 10 other people. There was a Thai crew aboard, but the crew left after a few days while the ship remained tied to the dock.

The man said the passengers discussed what to do and he was asked if he could work on the ship.

The man argued he wasn't aware the ship was being operated by human smugglers and maintained he believed the other people he was working with were in similar circumstances.

But Mr. McPhalen concluded even if the man didn't know he was working for human smugglers, he should have. Because he helped almost 500 people get smuggled into Canada, he should be deported, Mr. McPhalen concluded.

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