“You Will See…”: Bearing the Scars of Canadian Intelligence
by David Parker
HALIFAX – Abousfian Abdelrazik toured Canada this fall after six long years spent in forced exile in Sudan where he was detained and tortured. He has returned to Canada, despite the efforts of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), or as Abdelrazik calls them, the Canadian Muhkabarat. Mukhabarat is an Arabic word meaning ‘intelligence’, and refers to state security intelligence agencies known for their brutality, torture, arbitrary detentions and human rights violations.
He related his story of the Canadian Muhkabarat at a public presentation in Halifax in September.
“Between 1997 and 2003, [CSIS] started to follow me everywhere. They started bothering my [sick] wife, they even went to her family and to her father at work. ‘Give us information about your husband, and we will give you better treatment for your cancer,’ they said.”
In 2003, On the eve of his departure from Canada to Sudan to see his mother who had fallen ill, Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen who had never been charged with a crime, had an encounter with CSIS in Montreal.
“Two days before leaving for Sudan, two agents from CSIS came to my apartment and asked me about my travel. One of them said, ‘We know you’re planning on going to your country, Sudan.’ I went back inside and called the police. The police arrived in the parking lot, and asked the CSIS agents to leave. While they walked away, one of them turned to me and said to me, ‘You’re going to Sudan, you will see.’”
While in Sudan in September of 2003, he was detained by Sudanese state security and initially held in prison in Khartoum. In Sudan, where he was being interrogated and tortured, the same CSIS agents visited him.
“One evening, the same men who arrested me, came and took me. They said ‘Your friends, the Canadian Mukhabarat, have come to talk to you.’ They brought me to the office, where I found the same two guys who visited me my last night in Montreal, sitting at a table, with nice drinks, cakes, and coffee. One of them, the one who turned to me in Montreal and said ‘you’re gonna see’, said to me, ‘Remember what I said to you in Montreal? Now you’re going to see! Sit down!’ And they interrogated me for two days.”
“He said to me ‘You’re not Canadian, you’re Sudanese. You’re going to stay forever in Sudan, my country doesn’t need you!’” said Abdelrazik, relating some of the verbal harassment.
Abdelrazik was released from his first detention in 2004, but was detained again in 2005 for nine months.
In 2006, he was added to the UN no-fly list, under regulation 1267, and all his assets were frozen.
The RCMP reviewed their files in 2007, and found there was “no substantive evidence to indicate that Abdelrazik is involved in any criminal activity.” Nonetheless, CSIS maintained “he is an important Islamic jihad activist.” In April 2008, Abdelrazik took refuge at the Canadian embassy for fear of continued detention, torture and possible death at the hands of Sudanese security.
In 2009, 116 Canadians broke federal law and purchased a plane ticket for Abdelrazik’s return home. Mere hours before his flight, Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, used his discretionary powers to bar his return.
In his June 4th ruling, Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn ordered the Canadian government to repatriate Abdelrazik to Canada within 30 days, stating, “[Mr. Abdelrazik] is as much a victim of international terrorism as the innocent persons whose lives have been taken by recent barbaric acts of terrorists.”
Judge Zinn found that CSIS was complicit in the original detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by Sudanese authorities; that by mid 2004 Canadian authorities had determined that they wouldn’t seek to assist Abdelrazik’s return to Canada, and would consider refusing him an emergency passport that was required to ensure he could return to Canada; that the UN Resolution (regulation 1267) does not impede Abdelrazik from returning to his own country, and Canada’s assertions to the contrary was a way to ensure he would not return to Canada; and that the denial of an emergency passport on April 3, 2009, was a breach of his Charter right to enter Canada.
Due in part to Judge Zinn’s ruling and partly to mounting pressure on the government, Mr. Abdelrazik finally touched Canadian soil again on June 27th, 2009, and was heralded by his supporters.
On September 21st, three days before launching a Canada-wide speaking tour with Abousfian Abdelrazik and Project Fly Home – an advocacy and campaign network – Mr. Abdelrazik’s lawyers submitted a lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada and Minister Cannon. Abdelrazik is claiming $24 million in damages from the Attorney General on the basis of false imprisonment, torture, negligence, intentional infliction of mental suffering, breach of fiduciary duty, and breaches of his Charter Rights. He is also claiming $3 million in damages from Lawrence Cannon for misfeasance in public office, intentional infliction of mental suffering, and breach of Charter Rights.
Abousfian Abdelrazik’s case is similar to those of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all of whom were jailed on the recommendation of CSIS. Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen jailed in Syria and later repatriated to Canada, described the situation in a Globe and Mail column.
“Canadians deserve to know why so many of this country’s citizens, all of Muslim background, have been imprisoned and tortured abroad,” he wrote. “Human-rights organizations, activists and national-security experts have been calling for the current government to establish the credible oversight agency that was recommended by Judge O’Connor several years ago.”
Sarah Todd, a member of Project Fly Home, toured with Mr. Abdelrazik across Canada and helped in the public presentations. “You have to call into question the privilege, and the structures of class, race, religion, and highlight who is targeted,” she told The Dominion. “This couldn’t necessarily happen to any Canadian citizen, [and] it’s important to highlight the two-tiered citizenship rights.”
Abdelrazik spoke of the fear among the Muslim community, in Montreal and across Canada. “I have so many friends in Montreal, who are Muslims, and they live in fear of CSIS, and wherever the Muslims are [in Canada], they are living the same thing.”
“With Stephen Harper, [exporting torture has] become a reality that people accept, and it violates human rights and creates a climate of fear that is totally unacceptable,” Project Fly Home member Emilie Breton told The Dominion. “[It] has also made people believe that arbitrary measures should be used in the name of national security. This is a slow move towards a police state, where rights don’t exist for citizens. It’s important to denounce this and resist it.”
Project Fly Home is an initiative of The People’s Commission on Immigration and “Security” Measures. The Project came together under the increased harassment of immigrant and racialized communities, Indigenous people, radical groups and political organizations. Its goal is to monitor this harassment, to oppose it, and to challenge the whole idea of the national security agenda.
In an interview with The Dominion, Mr. Abdelrazik stated that the mobilization of Canadian civil society was an instrumental factor in pressuring the government to repatriate him. One hundred and sixteen Canadians broke federal law to purchase the April 3rd plane ticket for Mr. Abdelrazik’s return, despite UN regulation 1267, which makes it an offence to donate or give any financial aid to the listed person.
“I want to thank them a lot, for what they have done for me,” he said. “I think if they hadn’t stood up for me, and without the pressure on the government, I would have been forgotten in Sudan for so long. And I would tell them to continue, as there are many cases just like mine. Let us all continue doing the same thing, and bring justice for them.”
Lawrence Cannon, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, was contacted by phone and email to request an interview for this article, but his press secretary declined to comment due to the current lawsuit.
David Parker is an independent journalist and Spoken Word Coordinator at CKDU 88.1 fm in Halifax.
Posted on October 24, 2009, in Immigrant Struggles, Imperialism & Colonialism, State Repression and tagged North America - Canada. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on “You Will See…”: Bearing the Scars of Canadian Intelligence.