OTTAWA – Several parliamentarians — including Peter Harder, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate — have been subpoenaed to testify in Abousfian Abdelrazik’s high-profile lawsuit over his detention in Sudan.
Abdelrazik’s lawyer, Paul Champ, wants to question a number of individuals from the inner circle of government about their knowledge of his client’s prolonged ordeal.
Subpoenas have also been issued to Sen. Mobina Jaffer, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai and Liberal MP Wayne Easter, all of whom had dealings with the Abdelrazik file.
In addition, the Crown has confirmed that Lawrence Cannon, a former Conservative foreign affairs minister, will be appearing as a witness, Champ says.
The Sudanese-born Abdelrazik, 55, came to Canada from Africa as a refugee in 1990 and attained Canadian citizenship five years later.
The Montreal man was arrested during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see family. While in custody, Abdelrazik was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about suspected extremist links. He claims he was tortured by Sudanese intelligence officials during two periods of detention, but Canada says it knew nothing of the alleged abuse.
Abdelrazik denies any involvement in terrorism and is suing the Canadian government in Federal Court for an apology and compensation.
Earlier this year, it appeared the long-running matter might be settled out of court. But the government abruptly cancelled talks and a trial is slated to begin Sept. 17.
As many as 35 witnesses are expected to appear during the eight-week proceedings in Ottawa.
Champ has pressed the government for disclosure of internal records that will be key to the court proceedings.
Days after Abdelrazik’s second release from prison, in July 2006, his name turned up on a United Nations Security Council blacklist that prevented him from flying back to Canada.
He was granted haven in the Canadian consulate in Khartoum, but Canada refused to issue him a travel document to fly home. Amid a flurry of headlines about his case, he returned to Montreal in June 2009.
That same month, a Federal Court judge concluded CSIS was “complicit” in Abdelrazik’s 2003 detention.
The judge also found that, by mid-2004, Canadian authorities had determined they would not take any active steps to assist Abdelrazik’s return to Canada, and would consider refusing him a passport in order to thwart his homecoming.
Harder was deputy minister of Foreign Affairs at the time. A CSIS record disclosed to Champ says the United States sent demarches, or diplomatic statements, to two Canadian agencies objecting to Abdelrazik’s return to North America.
The 2009 Federal Court ruling also said the government’s claim that Abdelrazik couldn’t fly to Canada due to his inclusion on the UN blacklist was actually “no impediment” to his repatriation.
Easter was the federal minister responsible for CSIS when Abdelrazik was arrested by the Sudanese and underwent CSIS questioning. Easter was told through a briefing note of Abdelrazik’s detention and, under CSIS policy, would have been in a position to approve the spy service’s involvement, Champ says.
Jaffer, who served as Canada’s special peace envoy to Sudan, visited the country on three occasions in 2004 and 2005. She met Abdelrazik in Khartoum and discussed his case with the director of the Sudanese secret police.
Obhrai, a former parliamentary secretary, spoke with Abdelrazik for an hour in March 2008 when he accompanied then-foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier to Khartoum.
“Mr. Abdelrazik explained his many periods of incarceration, interrogation by Sudanese, Canadian, American and French intelligence, and his torture,” Champ says. “Mr Abdelrazik even showed Mr Obhrai scars on his body from the torture.”
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