Nova Scotia

Convicted N.S. sex offender disputes version of flight from Canada

A man who fled Canada while awaiting a decision on his sexual assault conviction says his case has been misrepresented by lawyers and the media.

Bassam Al-Rawi was convicted of sexual assault in 2020 but was out on bail while he appealed the conviction

Bassam Al-Rawi, convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in December 2012 after he picked her up in his cab, walks outside the courtroom during a break at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax in 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A man who fled Canada while awaiting a decision on his sexual assault conviction says his case has been misrepresented by lawyers and the media.

Bassam Al-Rawi was convicted of sexual assault in August 2020 by a judge of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. The former Halifax taxi driver sexually assaulted a woman in his Bedford apartment in December 2012.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld Al-Rawi's conviction. But the province's highest court also agreed to release him while he tried to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Al-Rawi had to surrender his passport and remain in Canada. That passport is still being held by the appeal court.

But this May, Al-Rawi boarded a plane in Montreal and flew to Turkey. From there, he made his way to Baghdad, where he still resides.

Warrant issued

Immediately following Al-Rawi's flight, the appeal court held an emergency hearing. Ian Hutchison withdrew as Al-Rawi's defence lawyer during that hearing and a warrant was issued for Al-Rawi's arrest.

During that hearing, Crown prosecutor Mark Scott laid out what authorities had been able to piece together about Al-Rawi's flight from Canada.

The fugitive has sent an email to the court, Scott, Hutchison and Fari Faisal Jeshami, his Canadian surety, laying out his version of events.

In his email, which is in the court file and has been viewed by CBC, Al-Rawi disputed Scott's information that he had travelled using a pseudonym.

"My name is Bassam Al-Rawi and I have never used any other name in my life," he wrote. "This claim does not exist at all." 

Al-Rawi attached images to his email, showing travel documents, including an Iraqi passport, which he says was issued by the Iraqi Embassy in Ottawa.

Depicts himself as a victim

Al-Rawi's email goes on to state that his mother died in February, that he had not been able to see her for years and could not attend her funeral or mourning period. "Part of my life was lost," he said.

As for the sexual assault, Al-Rawi tries to depict himself in the email as a victim.

"The mental and psychological damage that was inflicted on me and my family, and the matter, continues to this day," he said.

"I was convicted of an allegation and not direct evidence. This conviction was based on legal errors and on television hype and the insane campaign of defamation."

Just days after the emergency hearing in the appeal court, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would not hear Al-Rawi's appeal of his conviction.

At a hearing last month, the $25,000 Al-Rawi posted to secure his release from prison while he tried to mount his appeal was forfeited to the Crown. A portion of the money promised by Jeshami was also forfeited.

Boarded Turkish Airlines flight

According to Jeshami, Al-Rawi had contacted him by email, saying he was returning to Nova Scotia to serve the balance of his sentence. But rather than board a flight to Halifax as he claimed to Jeshami, Al-Rawi left Canada on a Turkish Airlines flight.

This case was the second time Al-Rawi was accused of sexually assaulting someone he picked up in his taxi.

He was tried and acquitted twice in a case involving another woman. Comments by the trial judge in his first acquittal garnered national headlines when the judge said "clearly, a drunk can consent" in describing the condition of the complainant.

CBC News has reached out to the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Ottawa to get a response to Al-Rawi's claims that he got a passport from the embassy. There has been no reply.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 40 years, the last 31 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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