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Canadian diplomat sent home in spitting incident

A Canadian diplomat who was reportedly arrested for spitting at a Tanzanian policeman will leave the African country "at the earliest possible time" and will return to Canada "in the best interest of all involved parties," the Canadian high commissioner in Tanzania says.

The high commissioner, Robert Orr, said the mission "regrets" the incident that took place in Dar es Salaam last week, where the diplomat allegedly spat at a traffic policeman during an argument while he was driving an embassy car.

The diplomat, identified by Tanzanian media as Jean Touchette, is the First Secretary (Co-operation) at the Canadian high commission. This makes him one of the most senior Canadian officials responsible for Canada's foreign aid to Tanzania.

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Mr. Touchette, in a telephone conversation today with The Globe and Mail, declined to comment on the incident. He referred questions to the foreign affairs department in Ottawa.

"We regret the incident that took place on Wednesday, Dec. 9, involving one of our officials," Mr. Orr said in a statement issued by the Canadian high commission in Dar es Salaam.

"In the best interest of all involved parties, the Canadian official will be leaving Tanzania at the earliest possible time and will return to Canada. It is important to reiterate that Canadian employees posted abroad are held to a high standard of professional conduct in all their relations with officials in their host country."

Last week, the Tanzanian government lodged a formal complaint about the incident, accusing the Canadian diplomat of "humiliating" the entire nation by spitting at a policeman and a journalist.

The diplomat was arrested for allegedly spitting at a senior police officer during an argument in a traffic jam, and later spat at a journalist who tried to photograph him at the police station, according to the Daily News, a Tanzanian newspaper.

The diplomat was freed on bail after being charged with obstructing traffic police in their duties, but his case has been forwarded to Tanzania's director of criminal investigations and could result in further charges, the Daily News said.

It said the diplomat had claimed diplomatic immunity and refused to be interrogated by police, but later agreed to be questioned in the presence of the Canadian high commissioner.

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Tanzania's foreign affairs ministry, in a statement issued yesterday, said the incident had humiliated the nation and its people, and could result in "measures" being taken against the suspect "in accordance with diplomatic procedures," the Daily News reported.

The newspaper said the diplomat was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser, belonging to the embassy, on the outskirts of the capital, Dar es Salaam, when the incident occurred on Wednesday. It said he rolled down the window of his car and spat in the face of a police officer named Corporal Samson who was directing traffic at an intersection.

Later, at the central police station, the same diplomat spat at a Tanzanian state television journalist named Jerry Muro who was trying to film him, it said.

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About the Author
Africa Bureau Chief

Geoffrey York is The Globe and Mail's Africa correspondent.He has been a foreign correspondent for the newspaper since 1994, including seven years as the Moscow Bureau Chief and seven years as the Beijing Bureau Chief.He is a veteran war correspondent who has covered war zones since 1992 in places such as Somalia, Sudan, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. More

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