Abousfian Abdelrazik: Project Fly Home

winter morning blues

Listen to:
* winter morning blues
for Abdelrazik

saxophone — Matana Roberts
piano — Stefan Christoff
recorded by Thierry Amar @ Hotel 2 Tango

Statement from Abousfian

Listen to an audio statement from Abousfian Abdelrazik on April 1st, 2009 by clicking the play button below. You can download the MP3 here.


Abousfian Abdelrazik - like Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin and Maher Arar, other victims of a Canadian programme of outsourcing torture - was, according to documents released by the Department of Foreign Affairs, jailed on the recommendation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) while on a visit to Sudan.

Never charged, he was beaten, threatened and tortured during two periods of detention. In this context, Abdelrazik was interrogated by CSIS officials, and separately by Sudanese and French intelligence agents and the FBI. The Canadian embassy was instructed by the Canadian government that: "Mission staff should not accompany Abdelrazik to his interview with the FBI."

Eventually released and cleared of all suspicion by Sudan, and even by the RCMP and CSIS in late 2007, his many attempts to return home to Montreal were repeatedly blocked.

In 2006, Abdelrazik's name was placed on the UN 1267 list by the Bush administration. The 1267 list imposes a travel ban, an arms embargo and a total asset freeze on listed individuals. Abdelrazik was not told that he was being placed on the list, was not told why he was on the list, and was given no opportunity to defend himself. As Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn was to write later in Abdelrazik's case, "There is nothing in the (1267) listing or de-listing procedure that recognizes the principles of natural justice or that provides for basic procedural fairness."

Under a complete asset freeze and a travel ban, Abdelrazik became destitute and, more than ever, needed the assistance of the Canadian government to come home. But they did not help. Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, then Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Harper, in Sudan on an official visit in March 2008, asked to meet with Abdelrazik. But instead of helping him, Obhrai and another Canadian official only interrogated him about his political beliefs: his views of Israel, Hamas and Bin Laden.

Finally, in an attempt to draw attention to his plight, Abdelrazik went public with his story in April 2008 and was granted "temporary safe haven" in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum. He remained there for fourteen months as Canadian officials continued to find ways of keeping him out of the country.

In December 2008, Canadian officials wrote that Abdelrazik must present a fully-paid-for plane ticket before Passport Canada would agree to issue an emergency passport. At the same time, the government was aware that Abdelrazik was destitute and took the position that anyone who paid for his ticket could be charged under section 3 of the United Nations Al Qaida and Taliban Regulations (which implement the 1267 list in Canada and state that no Canadian shall "provide or collect by any means, directly or indirectly, funds with the intention that the funds be used" by a person on the UN list).

In March 2009, over one hundred people joined together to buy a plane ticket home for Abdelrazik, despite the risk of being charged. (People continued to contribute - from March to June 2009, about 250 people from all parts of Canada and all walks of life contributed to the solidarity fund in open defiance of the government's position.)

The ticket was set for 3 April. However, just hours before the flight took off, Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, refused the emergency passport Abdelrazik needed to board the flight. On 4 June, the Federal Court's Justice Russel Zinn found that Lawrence Cannon's action was abusive and in violation of Abdelrazik's rights, and ordered the government to repatriate Abdelrazik without delay (see court order here). Forced into a corner, the government had no choice but to comply. On 27 June 2009, Abdelrazik returned to Montreal and was reunited with his family at last.

Abdelrazik now faces the second phase of his struggle: to seek accountability (bringing those responsible to justice, making sure this doesn't happen again to anyone else); and to get his name off the UN's 1267 list - that is, getting his life back to normal.

The last aspect is the most immediately urgent. Regulations implementing this list in Canada (the United Nations Al Qaida and Taliban Regulations) prohibit anyone from providing Abdelrazik with any material aid - including salary, loans of any amount, food or clothing--even health insurance.

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