OTTAWA – Advocates for a Montreal man who is suing the federal government over his detention and treatment in Sudan are crying foul over what they are calling a new, unjustified delay in the case.
Lawyer Paul Champ says the Justice Department will ask a Federal Court judge on Monday to indefinitely adjourn the civil trial launched by Abousfian Abdelrazik while it seeks a review by another judge of the evidence disclosed in the case so far.
Abdelrazik is suing the Canadian government for an apology and compensation over his lengthy overseas detention, claiming that he was tortured by Sudanese intelligence officials.
Champ told a news conference Friday he received a letter from Justice this week calling for a review of thousands of pages of material under national security provisions of the Canada Evidence Act.
“It’s inexplicable,” he said. “You don’t choose to do that two days before the start of a trial. There is no excuse, in our view.”
The adjournment request could result in a further delay of the trial for months or even years in what has already been a long-running case, Champ added.
Ten weeks of proceedings in the case were to get underway on Monday and Champ said flights and hotels for witnesses from overseas had already been booked.
“We are asking the government to do the right thing: stop these obstructive tactics, go to trial, have the evidence come out,” he said. “Or alternatively, they have the option of settling this case.”
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the move a violation of Canada’s international human rights obligations. “The word that comes to mind? Unconscionable.”
The office of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had no immediate comment Friday.
Abdelrazik, 56, became a Canadian citizen in 1995, five years after he arrived in Canada from Africa as a refugee.
He was arrested during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see family. In custody, Abdelrazik was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about suspected extremist links. He says he was tortured by Sudanese intelligence officials during two periods of detention.
Abdelrazik denies any involvement in terrorism and Canada has said it knew nothing of his purported abuse.
A Security Intelligence Review Committee probe of the Abdelrazik case, made public in 2013, found that while CSIS followed proper authorities in seeking approval to interview Abdelrazik following his initial imprisonment, the spy service “inappropriately, and in contravention of CSIS policy, disclosed personal and classified information.”