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Canada denies passport to 'blacklisted' citizen

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AbousfianPaul Koring - The Globe and Mail
April 3, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Conservative government reversed itself today and denied an emergency passport to Abousfian Abdelrazik, preventing the Canadian citizen - blacklisted as a terrorist - from flying home to Montreal.

In a terse explanation, it said Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon considers Mr. Abdelrazik a national security threat.

In a one-sentence letter, delivered this morning to Mr. Abdelrazik's lawyers, the justice department said “the minister of foreign affairs has decided to refuse your client's request for an emergency passport.” It cited Section 10.1 of the Canada Passport Order which says “the minister may refuse or revoke a passport if the minister is of the option that such action is necessary for the national security of Canada or another country.”

The refusal represents a complete reversal of the government's written promise of three months ago to issue Mr. Abdelrazik an emergency passport if he had a paid-for ticket home. Mr. Abdelrazik remains stranded in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, where he has living for nearly 11 months, granted “temporary safe haven” by former Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier.

Organizers of the groups representing nearly 200 Canadians who dared the government to charge them for buying him a ticket -- in defiance of a law forbidding anyone from providing funds to those on the terrorist blacklist -- were planning protests in several cities this morning.

“In order to facilitate Mr. Abdelrazik's return to Canada, Passport Canada will issue an emergency passport to Mr. Abdelrazik upon his submission of a confirmed and paid travel itinerary,” Lu Fernandes, director general of the agency's security bureau promised in a December 23, 2008 letter. But last week, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon added a new - and seemingly impossible - condition.

“It's up to him, its incumbent on him to make sure he gets off that list,” Mr. Cannon said, referring to the UN Security Council terrorist blacklist.

Mr. Abdelrazik was added to the list in 2006 by the Bush administration and the Harper government previously tried -- but failed -- to get him delisted. Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian, has been cleared of any terrorist or criminal involvement by both the RCMP and CSIS, who wrote to the foreign minister confirming their findings. He remains on the UN blacklist and a separate U.S. “no-fly” list.

“For six years I have tried to go back home to my children, but the Canadian government took my old passport and will not give me another one,” Mr. Abdelrazik said in a recorded statement released as the hours ticked down to his flight home.

Government documents, marked secret, implicate Canadian security agencies in the original arrest of Mr. Abdelrazik in 2003. In prison, he says, he was beaten and tortured. He was also interrogated by a visiting team of CSIS agents and by U.S. counter-terrorism agents.

“All this happened to me because the Harper government says I am an Islamic extremist. This is a lie. I am a Muslim and I pray to my God but this does not make me a terrorist or a criminal,” Mr. Abdelrazik said.

Opposition MPs have demanded the government make good on the promise of an emergency travel document. Although the blacklist imposes a travel ban, it includes a specific exemption for citizens to return home. The Canadian charter of rights also provides all citizens with an unfettered right of return.

For more information on Abousfian Abdelrazik, click here