jaziri-immam071017

Muslim cleric Said Jaziri was deported from Montreal in 2007. The former Canadian ambassador to Tunisia said Jaziri may not have been sent back had he been accused of terrorism, because in that case he might have been tortured. ((CBC))

Former Canadian ambassador to Tunisia Bruno Picard expressed skepticism about that country's claims it does not torture, calling them "bullshit," according to a WikiLeaks cable released Thursday.

"The Canadian ambassador said the GOT's [government of Tunisia's] statements that it does not torture are 'bullshit.' The Canadian ambassador said he had direct, first-hand evidence of torture/mistreatment of a prisoner that lasted several months," says the cable, which was drafted by U.S. diplomats and summarizes a June 2009 meeting between several Western ambassadors in Tunis.

"The Canadian ambassador noted the GOT has offered, as evidence that it does not torture, the case of Imam Said Jaziri, who was repatriated from Canada to Tunisia despite allegations that he would be mistreated.

"The Canadian ambassador said the comparison between Jaziri and the Guantanamo detainees is 'crap,' explaining that Jaziri was a petty criminal and not accused of terrorism. The Canadian government reviewed Jaziri's case carefully and decided he could be transferred," the cable says.

"The Canadian decision, Picard suggested, might well have been otherwise if Jaziri had been accused of terrorism.... The Canadian and German ambassadors agreed that anyone in Tunisian prisons on terrorism charges is at risk of mistreatment or torture."

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada ordered Jaziri deported in 2007 because the Tunisian-born cleric presented false information to get into Canada and lied about having a criminal record in France, where he served jail time. Jaziri said he would be tortured or killed in Tunisia because of his political beliefs.

Picard was Canada's ambassador to Tunisia from June 2006 until August 2009.

The memo is one of more than 250,000 documents obtained by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks that reveal the candid inner workings of U.S. diplomacy. Many of the documents provide frank and often unflattering assessments of foreign officials.

Approximately 2,000 of the documents are believed to have originated in Canada.