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Canadian citizen still stranded in Sudan

Abdelrazik missed flight to Toronto because government failed to produce necessary travel documents

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Canada is again refusing to allow one of its citizens to come home, leaving Abousfian Abdelrazik holed up in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.

The plight of Abdelrazik – who is alledgedly linked to Al-Qaeda – struck a chord with the People’s Commission on Immigration Security Measures, which led simultaneous campaigns for his immediate repatriation on September 12.

Organizer of the street theatre action in Montreal for the People’s Commission Mary Foster explained, “It has become clear that the Canadian authorities are complicit in outsourcing torture in the name of national security, which is a frightening trend for Canadian citizens and extremely harmful to the individual victims, like Abdelrazik.”

After a lengthly ordeal, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs promised in writing on April 18 that Abdelrazik – who holds dual Sudanese-Canadian citizenship – would be given a temporary travel document to fly to Canada provided that he could find an airline willing to fly him home. Despite his status on several no-fly lists due to alleged terrorist involvement, Abdelrazik finally booked a ticket with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. They agreed to fly Abdelrazik on September 15 via Abu Dhabi to Toronto. Given nearly three weeks notice of the flight, Canada balked at its promise, leaving Abdelrazik in Sudan as his flight departed.

Abdelrazik’s lawyer, Yavar Hameed, is appalled by the behaviour of the Canadian government, which he accused of hypocrisy.

“We’ve been given a number of different excuses by lawyers for the Canadian government,” said Hameed. “They say it is a very complex issue, but from my perspective it is a very simple one.”

“They keep returning to the issue that Abdelrazik is banned from travelling on commercial jets, and although this sounds reasonable, Abdelrazik has been on the no-fly list since 2006 and that was made known to the Canadian government when they promised to issue his travel documents in April [2008],” Hameed added.

Abdelrazik’s name is also included on a no-fly list specific to the U.S., meaning any airline that flies him could be permanently banned from American airspace. Abdelrazik’s Canadian passport expired while he was in prison, and the Canadian government has repeatedly refused to issue him a new one.

Abdelrazik – who fled Sudan to Canada as a refugee in 1990 after being imprisoned for his political views the year earlier during a military coup – returned in 2002 to visit his ailing mother in Khartoum. He was arrested and imprisoned several months later for suspected links to Al-Qaeda, allegedly at the request of the Canadian government.

While in prison, Abdelrazik was interrogated by both Sudanese investigators and members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), but no evidence was found against him, and he was finally released without charge in July 2006. At the end of that month, he was added to the UN’s Al-Qaeda terrorist blacklist, which bans him from travelling to or through any country except his own. An objection from one of 15 UN security council members denied Canada’s request to remove Abdelrazik from the list.

Hameed pointed to Canada’s refusal to accept an offer from Sudan to fly Abdelrazik home as evidence of their unwillingness to return him to Canada.

“There are no ifs, ands, or buts – the UN travel ban explicitly permits citizens to return home, thus giving the Canadian government the right to repatriate Abdelrazik,” he said.

Foster stressed that Canadians should mobilize in favour of repatriating Abdelrazik.

“The government is banking on people’s indifference, cynicism, and racism to not speak out against these atrocities and demand change,” she said.

Representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs were unavailable for comment on Abdelrazik’s situation.