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

Hometown girl returns to Hope as doctor-for-hire

Growing up locally, naturopath Sarah Sjovold is back and wants to help build a healthier community

They’re coming!

Communities in Bloom judges return to see if Hope has what it takes for another 5 Blossom year

Getting a new ‘Gig’ easier with new innovative program in Chilliwack

Program will take 12 young adults and help them prepare for their career path

Search continues for missing elderly woman in Chilliwack

RCMP, Chilliwack Search and Rescue and community members combing area for Grace Baranyk

VIDEO: Elderly woman with severe dementia missing in Chilliwack

Woman now missing more than 24 hours and missing her daily medications

VIDEO: Bloodhounds join the search for missing Chilliwack woman with dementia

Petsearchers Canada arrive in town Monday afternoon to help out

B.C. Ferries cancels two sailings Monday due to mechanical issues

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay run affected in order to repair Queen of New Westminster

RCMP investigating alleged ‘sexual misconduct’ by cyclist on BCIT campus

BCIT said they were reviewing video evidence of the incident

New home cost dips in B.C.’s large urban centres

Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver prices decline from last year

Graphic suicide scene edited out of ‘13 Reasons Why’ finale

Suicide prevention groups support the decision

Nine kittens and cats rescued after being locked in bins in northern B.C.: SPCA

SPCA says cats were starving, and matted with feces and urine

Woman grabbed, followed on trail near SFU campus: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told police a man was following and tried to talk to her

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

High-speed rail link would run from Vancouver to Seattle in under 1 hour: study

Annual ridership is projected to exceed three million

Most Read