Several parliamentarians to testify in man’s lawsuit over detention in Sudan

Peter Harder, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate will not testify

Peter Harder, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, has rebuffed a call to testify next month in a Montreal man’s lawsuit over his lengthy detention in Sudan.

Harder, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs, is invoking his legal privilege as a senator to avoid appearing in court during a parliamentary session after being subpoenaed to answer questions about Abousfian Abdelrazik’s overseas ordeal.

However, several other parliamentarians who had dealings with the Abdelrazik file, including Sen. Mobina Jaffer, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, Liberal MP Wayne Easter and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier — who quit the Conservative party Thursday — have signalled a willingness to testify, said Paul Champ, Abdelrazik’s lawyer.

Lawrence Cannon, a former Conservative foreign affairs minister, is also expected to be a witness, Champ says.

RELATED: Two Haida men detained for crossing U.S.-Canada border

The Sudanese-born Abdelrazik, 56, arrived in Canada from Africa as a refugee in 1990. He became a Canadian citizen five years later.

He was arrested during a 2003 visit to Sudan to see family. While in custody, Abdelrazik was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about suspected extremist links. He claims he was tortured by Sudanese intelligence officials during two periods of detention, but Canada says it knew nothing of the alleged abuse.

Abdelrazik denies any involvement in terrorism and is suing the Canadian government in Federal Court for an apology and compensation.

The federal government has chosen to settle lawsuits brought by other Canadians over the federal role in their imprisonment abroad, notably Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin.

It appeared earlier this year that the long-running Abdelrazik matter might also be settled out of court. But the government abruptly cancelled mediation sessions and a trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

As many as 35 witnesses could appear during the eight-week proceedings in Ottawa.

Champ contends the testimony from parliamentarians will show how elected officials were kept in the dark.

“Mr Abdelrazik’s trial will expose the enormous gaps in the oversight of CSIS and the extent to which the Service believes it can destroy the lives of citizens with impunity.”

It is “particularly disappointing” that Harder is unwilling to tell the court what he knew about Abdelrazik’s detention, Champ said. ”I hope he changes his mind and follows the moral leadership of his fellow parliamentarians and shows up in court.”

In a June 28 letter to Champ, a parliamentary lawyer acting for Harder notes the right of exemption for MPs and senators from being subpoenaed to attend court as a witness during a session of Parliament, as well as for a period before and after the session.

“The Parliament of Canada is currently in session and will remain so until the next prorogation or dissolution of Parliament. Senator Harder can therefore avail himself of the above-noted parliamentary privilege and intends to do so in this case.”

Days after Abdelrazik’s second release from prison, in July 2006, his name turned up on a United Nations Security Council blacklist that prevented him from flying back to Canada.

He was granted haven in the Canadian consulate in Khartoum, but Canada refused to issue him a travel document to fly home.

RELATED: Maxime Bernier tears strip off Conservatives, Scheer as he quits federal party

Obhrai, a former parliamentary secretary, spoke with Abdelrazik for an hour in March 2008 when he accompanied Bernier, foreign affairs minister at the time, to Sudan.

A June 27 letter to Champ from a House of Commons lawyer, writing on Obhrai’s behalf, also mentions the time-honoured privilege of parliamentarians concerning court appearances.

But it says Obhrai is willing to attend court on a day when the Commons is not sitting, or possibly testify by video conference. “It may be able to arrange to testify in a manner so as not to impede his abilities to carry out his functions as a member of Parliament and so as not to unnecessarily delay the court process.”

Abdelrazik returned to Montreal from Sudan in June 2009 amid a blaze of publicity about his case.

That same month, a Federal Court judge concluded CSIS was “complicit” in his 2003 detention.

The judge also found that, by mid-2004, Canadian authorities had determined they would not take any active steps to assist Abdelrazik’s return to Canada, and would consider refusing him a passport to prevent his homecoming.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Property owners say CSRD’s offer for 10-acres bordering landfill is unfair

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has offered to purchase a 10-acre… Continue reading

Expect delays on Highway 1 west of Golden due to vehicle fire

Expect delays while driving Highway 1 between Golden and Revelstoke. Drive BC… Continue reading

Your weekly Mountain Minute

Golden’s weekly 60-secon news recap for February 14

New report calls for regulated heroin sales to curb B.C.’s overdose problem

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

Millennial men least likely to have a family doctor: Statistics Canada

Report found more women have primary care physicians, compared with men

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

VIDEO: Woman, off-duty cop in serious condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Most Read