Calgary father accused of hiding kidnapped daughter in Iraq ordered to buy her a plane ticket

A Calgary father accused of kidnapping his daughter and hiding her with family in Iraq must take steps to have her returned or he could be kept behind bars indefinitely.

Ali Al Aazawi charged with parental child abduction, international kidnapping

Lawyers and Global Affairs Canada are working to secure the return of Zahraa Al Aazawi, who was allegedly kidnapped by her father, Ali Al Aazawi, and taken to Iraq. (Calgary Police Service)

A Calgary father accused of kidnapping his daughter and hiding her with family in Iraq must take seven steps to have her returned or he could be kept behind bars indefinitely.

Ali Al Aazawi, 38, is charged with international kidnapping and parental abduction.

He is accused of taking his 11-year-old daughter, Zahraa Al Aazawi, to Egypt in June 2018 and then leaving her with family in Iraq. This is in breach of a family court order that said the child was to be returned to her mother, Zanaib Mahdi  — Al Aazawi's ex-wife — in September 2018.

In April 2019, Al Aazawi returned to Canada without his daughter. When he arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, he was arrested and escorted by police back to Calgary.

Aside from his criminal charges, Al Aazawi was to face a contempt hearing before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Willie deWit on Wednesday.

Instead, deWit has given the father a chance to bring the child back to Calgary by giving him a list of seven steps to take in order to avoid being found in contempt.

"Hopefully, the child will be back, that's the bottom line here," said deWit.

Zahraa's mother, Zanaib Mahdi, was also in court for the hearing and appeared emotional as the lawyers and judge discussed the return of her daughter. It has been nearly a year since Mahdi has seen her daughter.

Brendan Miller, who represents Al Aazawi on his family matters and Erika Gordon, who represents the girl's mother, Mahdi, appeared before deWit. The lawyers will prepare the order, to be served to the accused, who is being held at the Calgary Remand Centre.

Miller and Gordan worked with Global Affairs Canada as well as consular officials in Iraq to come up with a list of steps that must be taken in order to get the child back to Canada.

The judge has ordered Al Aazawi to complete the following actions:

  • Provide or disclose the location of the child's Canadian passport.
  • Provide a letter of consent for the child to travel to Canada.
  • Provide or disclose the location of his Iraqi identification.
  • Purchase a flight ticket for his daughter.
  • Arrange for a family member to accompany Zahraa to the airport in Iraq, to ensure her safety and well-being.
  • Disclose Zahraa's geographical location in Iraq, including an address and telephone number, to the girl's mother and the Canadian government.
  • Disclose any family law court orders obtained in Iraq or any other country outside of Canada to Mahdi and the Canadian government.

Another contempt hearing has been set for later in May when another judge will confirm whether Al Aazawi has completed the list.

If Al Aazawi is found in contempt, he can be kept in custody until the child is returned to Canada.

Domestic abuse allegations

In 2012, Al Aazawi's wife sought an emergency protection order, alleging physical and psychological abuse.

Mahdi told police at the time that her husband had broken her nose and finger, burned her shoulder with a searing-hot knife he pressed onto her skin, and once given her a black eye.

Al Aazawi's mother lived with the couple at the time and had also allegedly attacked Mahdi. The mother-in-law, whom Mahdi said she did not trust, has since returned to Iraq.

In an affidavit filed at the Calgary courthouse, Al Aazawi denied the abuse.

A bail hearing was to take place earlier this week but was cancelled as defence lawyer Tonii Roulston awaits the outcome of her client's criminal charges.

Prosecutor Ryan Persad has previously said he intends to oppose Al Aazawi's release.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.