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U.S. asked Canada to help build a case against Abdelrazik

Washington attempted to elicit the Harper government's help in putting Abousfian Abdelrazik behind bars, even though American anti-terrorist agents admitted they lacked sufficient evidence to charge him.

Government censors - in a rare failure to black out anything incriminating - let slip a "secret" document, dated July 19, 2006, that reveals a critical set of high-level exchanges between the administration of George W. Bush and the Stephen Harper government.

It was part of a trove of several hundred pages, many of them entirely blacked out, that were released by the government in response to a Privacy Act request by Mr. Abdelrazik.

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The document, marked "secret," shows that the Bush administration knew Sudan was about to release Mr. Abdelrazik from prison in the summer of 2006, and wanted help from Canadian police and anti-terrorism agents to try to charge him.

The document shows the U.S. did not have information that warranted any charges against [Mr. Abdelrazik] nor did Canada or Sudan. Yet his life remained a nightmare for years based on suspicion alone.

The Bush administration apparently planned to permit Mr. Abdelrazik to return to North America, where he could be charged and put on trial.

"The U.S. would like Canada's assistance in putting together a criminal case against Abdelrazik," John Di Gangi, then the director of foreign intelligence at Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, writes in the note sent to top officials in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and other security agencies, following a high-level diplomatic request from senior U.S. officials.

"If Canadian police or security agencies shared what they had, it might prove to be enough for the U.S. to proceed as the threshold for prosecution there [in the U.S.]was lower than here [in Canada]"

At the time, the Bush administration was only days away from putting Mr. Abdelrazik on the UN Security Council's terrorist blacklist, yet was acknowledging it didn't have sufficient evidence to even charge him and wanted help, as it had received in other cases.

"The document shows the U.S. did not have information that warranted any charges against [Mr. Abdelrazik] nor did Canada or Sudan," said Paul Champ, one of the lawyers who successfully won a federal court case forcing the Harper government to end years of stalling and repatriate Mr. Abdelrazik. "Yet his life remained a nightmare for years based on suspicion alone," Mr. Champ added.

Paul Dewar, the NDP MP who has championed Mr. Abdelrazik's case, says the greyed-out but still readable document "provides the missing link."

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"It shows that the Bush administration was telling the Harper government how to treat Canadian citizens and that it wanted help in sending them who knows where … perhaps Guantanamo."

It's not clear from the document whether any Canadian help was promised or forthcoming. The subsequent documents are entirely blacked out. Nor is it clear whether warnings that the then U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, was prepared to called Canadian ministers over the issue were realized.

However, Mr. Di Gangi tells the circle of senior police and security officials that Mr. Wilkins may call then Tory justice minister Vic Toews and then public safety minister Stockwell Day.

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About the Author
International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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