Canadian spies teamed up with the Gadhafi regime to question a Canadian jailed in Libya, a prominent human-rights group says.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers travelled to Libya several times to interview the prisoner between 2002 and 2005, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based group will circulate a statement on Wednesday revealing that it has obtained documents on this obscure case from an abandoned intelligence complex in Tripoli.
Mustafa Krer, 56, immigrated to Canada from Libya in the 1990s. He was jailed as a terrorism suspect when he returned to his homeland almost a decade ago. Released only last year, he hopes to return to Canada in coming months.
He maintains that Western intelligence agencies, including CSIS, came to put questions to him after the Libyans locked him up in 2002. "Seven Canadians and seven Libyans – I was there, and they did it together," he is quoted as saying in a Human Rights Watch statement. He says he was tortured by Libyan guards when no outsiders were looking.
This account is "deeply troubling," said Andrea Prasow, a lawyer for the group. "CSIS did not torture Krer, but they must have known the Libyans probably did."
CSIS has long insisted it neither arranges arrests nor condones torture. It defends its partnerships with foreign spy services, even ones controlled by repressive dictators, as necessary to save Canadian lives.
The Globe and Mail reported this week that a Conservative government minister thanked Libya for putting its "extensive intelligence networks" to work for Ottawa in 2009.
Federal agents, including CSIS, had been in Africa earlier that year working their contacts in hopes of rescuing two captive Canadian diplomats. The two hostages were released after 130 days in the Sahara. Yet U.S. envoys cabled Washington to complain that Canadian officials facilitated a secret ransom deal that enriched terrorists and jeopardized West African security.
Canadian court documents alleged that Mr. Krer was a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group member and was spotted meeting some al-Qaeda-linked suspects in Canada.
CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said in an e-mail on Tuesday that she couldn't address specifics, but pointed out the LIFG "is an organization listed as an entity associated with al-Qaeda" by the United Nations.
Mr. Krer doesn't deny that he has LIFG ties – in fact, he recently told a reporter he was a fundraiser for the group in its nascent phases.
While several of his former comrades became al-Qaeda militants, others are leading the rebel militias that NATO warplanes are backing in the effort to rid Libya of Moammar Gadhafi.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several Arab-Canadians were put under CSIS or RCMP surveillance and accused of having ties to al-Qaeda. Many were jailed when they flew to their homelands.
Some are suing Ottawa for complicity in torture.