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Bassam Aladin Al-Rawi can operate as an independent taxi driver in Halifax while his sex-assault case plays out.

A Halifax taxi driver charged with sexual assault has been allowed back behind the cab wheel, and that's causing concern.

Bassam Aladin Al-Rawi, 39, was arrested in May and charged with sexual assault after an alleged incident in his taxi. He worked for Bob's Taxi, but they aren't employing him while his case proceeds. However, he can act as an independent driver and take fares.  

Brendan Elliot, a spokesman for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said that staff with the municipality's taxi commission suspended Al-Rawi's licence, but he appealed.

His lawyer told the appeal commission, which comprises of six councillors, that he should get his licence back while the case proceeds. Staff argued against that. 

"Our overriding principle as an authority is to ensure that all customers are safe while in care of a cab driver and the cab itself," Elliot said. "We felt that the safety of passengers was in question with this driver on the streets."

But the appeals committee reinstated Al-Rawi's licence. 

There are two stipulations: he can only drive from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and he must have a camera installed in his vehicle. The footage can only be obtained by police. 

CBC's Mainstreet called the six councillors on the appeals committee, but only reached two. Coun. Russell Walker deferred to the chairman, Matt Whitman, who was travelling Monday and unavailable. 

Coun. Gloria McCluskey said the decision to reinstate Al-Rawi's licence was made in-camera, and that councillors are not supposed to talk about those meetings.

​'When he drives long hours, he does so with his pants unbuttoned'

A police search warrant application obtained by CBC lays out what the police say happened that spring night. 

On May 23, at around 1:20 a.m., Halifax Regional Police were responding to a call in the south end near Atlantic Street, according to the search warrant application.

Const. Monia Thibault saw a Bob's Taxi parked and idling. She went to the driver's side and saw a woman in the back. She saw the driver turning and facing the back of the cab. He looked like he was fumbling with something and that he was trying to hide it between him and the centre console, according the search warrant application.

It was a pair of pants and panties that were inside out.

The warrant alleges the constable saw the woman was naked from the waist down, with her tank top pulled up and she appeared to be passed out.

When the taxi driver left the vehicle, his pants were half way down his buttocks and his zipper was undone, the warrant alleges.

Brendan Elliott

Brendan Elliot, spokesman for HRM, said that staff with the municipality's taxi commission suspended Al-Rawi's licence, but he appealed. (CBC)

He was placed under arrest for sexual assault and identified as Al-Rawi.

Const. John Berger took a warned caution statement from Al Rawi and one of the things Al-Rawi said was that "when he drives long hours, he does so with his pants unbuttoned," according to the search warrant application.

The search warrant doesn't mention charges, but police confirmed he is facing one charge of sexual assault.

None of the allegations have been tested court.

Woman says Al-Rawi sexually assaulted her

The search warrant application says Al-Rawi does not have a criminal record. He has had summary offence tickets for driving offences.

Other situations involving passengers are mentioned in the warrant.

One woman reported that Al-Rawi did not stop at her house, kept driving around the block while calling her "baby" and grabbed her hand and asked her to stay.

The search warrant says Al-Rawi told police that the woman wanted to listen to a song so he turned the metre off and kept driving. The woman only wanted this information documented.

In the other situation, a woman reported being intoxicated and getting into a cab driven by Bassam Abdullatif. Abdullatif and Al-Rawi are the same person, according to the search warrant.

Allegedly Al-Rawi took the woman up to his apartment and sexually assaulted her.

The woman had limited recollection of the alleged assault.

Al-Rawi was questioned about this and said he didn't recall the incident "but at no time would he force someone to have sexual intercourse and that he had never had intercourse with someone who was sleeping or passed out," according to the search warrant application.

Halifax Regional Police said there are no other charges against Al-Rawi at this time.

'None of the brokers are willing to let him drive'

Dave Buffet is president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association. Buffet says while Al-Rawi may be able to drive, he will have trouble picking up many fares.

He'll have to create his own roof light and seek passengers. 

"None of the brokers are willing to let him drive for their office," Buffet said. "He'd be hard pressed to make a day's pay doing that. It's almost impossible."

Buffet says Bob Taxi's, his former employer, wants nothing to do with him.

"Him returning to Bob's, unless he's proven innocent, is not an option."

Buffet said Al-Rawi is not a member of the taxi association.

Rebecca Faria, the founder of the Halifax Hollaback, a group that wants to end street harassment, said he shouldn't be able to pick up fares. 

"I am hearing people say that they are not comfortable taking cabs at all. That they're afraid to hail cabs on the street," she said.

Faria said the time restrictions served little purpose. 

"Sexual assault and sexual harassment are not confined to certain hours of the day," she said. "About the only thing that makes this possibly safer is people are less likely to be under the influence of alcohol during those times, but other than that I really see very little protection here."

She thinks the appeals committee needs to reconsider its decision.