Abousfian Abdelrazik deserves nothing, despite claims that he was tortured in Sudan's notorious prisons after being targeted by Canadian counterterrorism agents, the government says in a sweeping repudiation of a $27-million lawsuit.
Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, was denied return to Canada for years until a federal court judge ruled the Harper government had violated his rights and ordered him flown home. He claims that Canadian agents arranged for his arrest in Khartoum, that they knew he would be tortured, and that government ministers, acting in bad faith, then willfully thwarted his return even after he was released from prison.
The government admits that Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon's "denial of an emergency passport" violated Mr. Abdelrazik's Charter right "to enter Canada," but denies Mr. Cannon "breached the plaintiffs charter right knowingly and in bad faith." Mr. Abdelrazik's suit, if successful, would dwarf the $10-million Ottawa paid Maher Arar for its role in identifying him to U.S. agents who flew him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.
The government's 34-page statement of defence in Mr. Abdelrazik's case doesn't explain how agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service knew before anyone else in the Canadian government that Mr. Abdelrazik was in prison in Khartoum, or how CSIS agents came to interrogate him in a Sudanese jail while Canadian consular officers were denied access.
"Clearly, Mr. Abdelrazik was arrested in Sudan on the basis on information that came from Canada," Paul Champ, his lawyer, said. Justice Department lawyers deny Canada "requested, suggested or prompted Sudanese officials to arrest," Mr. Abdelrazik, who had been under CSIS surveillance in Montreal for years. The government, however, acknowledged that CSIS shares intelligence with other counterterrorist agencies. Nothing in the government statement precludes the kind of second-hand arrangement whereby French or American agencies could have alerted Sudan based on a CSIS tip. U.S. agents also interrogated Mr. Abdelrazik in Sudan, but Canadian diplomats rejected his pleas for them to attend.
The government concedes it knew that torture was rife in Sudan's prisons, but claims Mr. Abdelrazik "was detained but not tortured."
The case could take years to resolve. The government has already warned that it will redact hundreds of thousands of pages before making them available.
Among the thousands of pages already released are documents marked "CSIS," though apparently originating from the Foreign Affairs Department, which state Mr. Abdelrazik was arrested "at our request." Mr. Abdelrazik, meanwhile, remains the only Canadian on the United Nations Security Council's 1267 terrorist watch list despite formal letters from both CSIS and the RCMP that neither agency has any current reason to warrant blacklisting him. He cannot work because Canadian law makes it a crime to employ anyone on the list.
Mr. Abdelrazik's entry on the 1267 list, echoing his listing on U.S. watch lists, claims he was an al-Qaeda operative linked to an extremist cell in Montreal who travelled to Pakistan and Chechnya to participate in jihad - or holy war.
Mr. Abdelrazik flatly rejects any association with any extremist group and says his travel was solely connected with humanitarian relief in conflict zones.
He came to Canada in 1990, was granted refugee status, and became a Canadian citizen after marrying a Quebecker. He says his return to Sudan in 2003 was intended as a visit to his ailing mother.
As for the torture alleged by Mr. Abdelrazik, the government acknowledges that he showed abdominal scars to Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai in 2008. Subsequently, government lawyers cross-examining Mr. Abdelrazik alleged he had mutilated himself as part of an obscure religious rite.
Mr. Champ said Mr. Abdelrazik believes CSIS has resumed shadowing him. "He knows what it is like to be followed," Mr. Champ said, adding that if CSIS agents were "following him again it would be really cruel," especially after clearing him in writing. "They have persecuted him for more than a decade for living in the wrong apartment block and saying hello to the wrong people at the mosque."