Nova Scotia

Former Halifax taxi driver files appeal of sexual assault conviction

Bassam Al-Rawi, who was sentenced last month to two years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman eight years ago, is appealing his conviction and seeking bail.

Al-Rawi's bail hearing will take place Thursday

Bassam Al-Rawi, convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in December 2012 after he picked her up in his cab, walks outside the courtroom on Aug. 28, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A former Halifax taxi driver who was sentenced to two years in prison last month for sexually assaulting a woman eight years ago is appealing his conviction. 

Bassam Al-Rawi filed a notice of appeal through his lawyer last week. He is asking to be released on bail pending appeal.

Al-Rawi was convicted in August of sexually assaulting a woman in his Bedford, N.S., apartment on Dec. 15, 2012, after picking her up in a taxi while she was lost in downtown Halifax.

In December, Al-Rawi's request for a mistrial was rejected. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Former taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi arrives at provincial court in Halifax on April 15, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The appeal documents allege the court erred when considering certain evidence relating to the complainant's credibility and when considering identification evidence, as well as improperly using hearsay evidence. The documents also allege the court erred in shifting the burden of proof to Al-Rawi, and determining if the intention to commit a crime for the sexual assault offence was met.

The victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified during Al-Rawi's trial that she drove from Pictou County to Halifax with a group of friends on Dec. 14, 2012. After a night out, she said a taxi driver picked her up at a downtown location and took her back to his place.

She said he later assaulted her in his bedroom while she was drunk and pretending to be unconscious. 

The victim reported the assault right away, but police did not lay charges at the time. Years later, she came forward again after hearing the same taxi driver had been acquitted of a different sexual assault in 2017.

'Drunk can consent' controversy

Al-Rawi faced previous charges related to allegations he sexually assaulted a passenger in his cab in 2015, after a police officer found the woman unconscious in his vehicle.

The case received backlash and national attention after the original trial judge said, "Clearly, a drunk can consent," and acquitted Al-Rawi in 2017.

A new trial was ordered but Al-Rawi was acquitted again in that case in September 2019.

Bassam Al-Rawi arrives at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court with his wife and lawyer in Halifax on Aug. 28, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Al-Rawi and his wife live in Germany. They travelled to Nova Scotia for the trial last summer.

The court documents say two bail plans have been proposed for Al-Rawi; the first would allow him to return to Germany pending his appeal.

Al-Rawi wants to see the birth of his first child in May, as well as keep his struggling businesses there afloat.

He owns a car rental company in Germany that employs more than 30 people. Al-Rawi is worried the company will fail due to "his lack of direct supervision and the economic effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic," the documents say.

Bail hearing scheduled for Thursday

Al-Rawi hopes to become a German citizen, but his conviction is a barrier to doing so. He must be in Germany to renew his temporary residency permit, which expires in April.

While his wife remains in Halifax on a visitor's visa, she cannot reside or work here, and is not entitled to MSI health benefits. She will have to return to Germany for the birth of their child, court documents say.

Al-Rawi has made efforts to sponsor his wife to obtain permanent residency in Canada, however the conviction prohibits him from doing so.

The second proposed bail plan would see Al-Rawi live in Ottawa at property belonging to his friend's brother-in-law. The court documents say Al-Rawi fears for his safety if he remains on bail in Halifax, as his "notoriety ... makes it difficult for him to rent an apartment and obtain employment."

Al-Rawi's bail hearing is scheduled to be held Thursday.