Finding justice on the road

Canadian speaks out about CSIS secrecy, detention

Sudanese-born Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik speaks at the public library on Monday. Earlier, he spoke to a law class in Macdonald Hall about the United Nations’ no-fly list.
Sudanese-born Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik speaks at the public library on Monday. Earlier, he spoke to a law class in Macdonald Hall about the United Nations’ no-fly list.

Abousfian Abdelrazik isn’t sure where his connection with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) began and he won’t begin to guess where it will end.

“It’s the story of 12 years,” he said during a talk in Macdonald Hall yesterday. “It’s a long story with many details.”

The Canadian citizen returned to his home in Montreal in June after spending more than six years in and out of prison in Sudan, including a 14-month stint at the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.

He’s suing the federal government and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon for $27 million for their role in his arrest and alleged torture in Sudan.

In June, the Federal Court of Canada ordered the Conservative government to issue Abdelrazik travel documents to return to Canada. The government had previously refused to issue him an emergency passport because he’s on the United Nations (UN) Security Council’s 1267 list, also called the “no-fly list,” which prohibits listed individuals from travelling. The judge’s report said the government breached his constitutional right to travel home.

Abdelrazik said he’s been going across the country to raise awareness about the 1267 list and his efforts to have his name de-listed. He hasn’t been charged or given a trial.

“Up to this moment, I don’t know why my name’s on the list,” he said.

Abdelrazik’s tumultuous relationship with CSIS began in 1997, when his friends in Montreal said agents came around asking for details about him.

Federal officials visited his apartment in 2000.

“They harassed me in different ways,” he said, adding that officials came to his apartment again on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.

“They asked me, ‘Who did this?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know,’” he said. “They said, ‘Do you know anybody who would do this here?’ and I said, ‘My children is here, my neighbours, my friends. … If I hear someone planning on doing something here, I tell the police.’”

He said officials also tried to contact his wife to ask questions about him.

“They said, ‘We know your credit isn’t very good so we’ll fix that,’” he said.

In 2003, the Sudanese-born Abdelrazik went to Sudan to visit his mother who was about to have an operation.

Before he left Montreal, two CSIS agents visited his apartment saying they would keep an eye on him, he said.

After staying in Sudan for several months looking after his mother, Abdelrazik was summoned by the Sudanese intelligence service and arrested.

“For seven days, they asked the same questions,” he said.

He paused before describing what happened when he didn’t give them the answers they wanted.

“They spit in my face, pushed me to the wall and sometimes took me by the head and slammed it against the table,” he said. “After those seven days, the interrogation was over and I was transferred to prison.”

Abdelrazik said Canadian officials, including the ones who had gone to his apartment in Montreal, visited him in the Sudanese prison.

“CSIS saw the treatment of the Sudanese guards and how they talked to me,” he said.

The Canadian agents interrogated him for two days, asking him the same questions as the Sudanese intelligence service, he said.

“I said to one of the officials, ‘I really want to go back to Canada and see my children. Just help me out,’” he said. “He said, ‘My country doesn’t need you. You’re a Sudanese. You’re going to stay here.’”

He was released with no charge in 2004 before being arrested again in 2005.

“I spent nine months in the second detention,” he said, adding that he contracted malaria and typhoid while in prison.

He was released in 2006. That year, the U.S. put Abdelrazik’s name on the UN’s no-fly list.

“Every time it’s like I have hope and then hope is completely gone,” he said.

Abdelrazik spent 14 months living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.

“For the first four months, my room was a washroom,” he said, adding that afterwards he was given a cot to sleep on.

Abdelrazik returned to Canada on June 27.

“My struggle isn’t over,” he said. “I’m still in prison because of that list.”

Individuals on the UN’s 1267 list can’t work, go to school, access health care or use social assistance because the resolution makes anyone who gives Abdelrazik material aid punishable under Canada’s anti-terror legislation, activist Stefan Christoff said.

Christoff is an executive member of Project Fly Home, which campaigned for Abdelrazik’s return and is now seeking his de-listing from the 1267 list.

“There’s only two Canadians on the list—Abdelrazik and the other one is [Guantanamo Bay detainee] Omar Khadr’s father, who’s dead and still on the list,” he said.

The UN’s list has come under a lot of critique, Christoff said, adding that Judge Russel Zinn of the federal court is among its critics.

“We have a citizen who was arrested and tortured with the awareness and participation of the federal government,” he said. “It’s renegade justice.”

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