Court orders Ottawa to let Abdelrazik return to Canada
Government left 47-year-old Montrealer a 'prisoner in a foreign land,' judge writes
The Federal Court of Canada on Thursday ordered the federal government to allow the return of a Montreal man stranded in Sudan for six years as an al-Qaeda suspect, ruling his charter rights have been breached.
Abousfian Abdelrazik, 47, was arrested and detained while visiting his mother in Sudan in 2003 and for the last year has been living in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum.
Both the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service have cleared Abdelrazik of any terrorist connections, but the Conservative government refuses to issue him travel documents to return home because his name was added to a UN Security Council list banning travel for terrorist suspects.
His lawyers successfully argued the government has violated his right to mobility under Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In his decision, Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn wrote that Abdelrazik is a "prisoner in a foreign land" and "as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists."
He ordered the government to facilitate Abdelrazik's return within 30 days.
"I find that Mr. Abdelrazik is entitled to an appropriate remedy which, in the unique circumstances of his situation, requires that the Canadian government take immediate action so that Mr. Abdelrazik is returned to Canada," Zinn wrote.
Zinn also said CSIS was "complicit" in Abdelrazik's detention by Sudanese authorities six years ago.
During Thursday's question period in the House of Commons, the Liberals and NDP called upon the government to honour the court's order and repatriate Abdelrazik immediately.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae told the House that Zinn's decision on Abdelrazik's case raised a serious question over the Harper government's adherence to the rule of law.
Justice Department to review decision: Nicholson
"I'd like to ask the minister a very simple question: will he now change the decision of the government of Canada and recognize him as a citizen of Canada?" Rae asked.
New Democrat Foreign MP Libby Davies called the government's handling of the case a "national disgrace" and urged the Tories not to waste more time by appealing the decision.
"The reality is this government did everything it could to keep this innocent Canadian stranded in Sudan," Davies said.
Speaking for the government, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said government lawyers would need time to review the 107-page decision before deciding its course of action.
"It's being carefully studied by the Department of Justice, Mr. Speaker, and after we've had an opportunity to review the advice from the Department of Justice, we'll take action," Nicholson said.
Calling his case "complex," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has previously said Abdelrazik must get himself removed from the United Nations blacklist before he can return to Canada.
In his decision, Zinn said the government's claim that Abdelrazik couldn't fly to Canada due to his inclusion on the UN blacklist was actually "no impediment" to his repatriation.
Canadian media reports have quoted UN officials as saying Canada can repatriate Abdelrazik any time it wishes, whether or not his name is on the UN list.
Last week, a parliamentary foreign affairs committee passed a unanimous motion calling on the federal government to allow Abdelrazik to return to Ottawa to testify before MPs.
His lawyers have said several groups, including the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Canadian Postal Workers Union, have already bought him a plane ticket and have offered to accompany him on his journey back to Canada.