Sudanese refugee sues Canadian government over terrorism accusations

Abousfian Abdelrazik seeks $500,000 in damages
Darryl Greer
Abousfian Abdelrazik comments on the U.N. decision to remove his name from terrorism blacklist during a news conference Thursday, December 1, 2011 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen born in Sudan once accused of having links to Al-Qaida, is suing the Canadian government for half a million dollars in damages claiming an unnamed government official leaked documents which smeared him as a terrorist years after the RCMP and CSIS found insufficient evidence for the label.

Abdelrazik came to Canada as a refugee from Sudan in 1990, becoming a citizen five years later. In 2003 on a visit to Sudan, he says he was imprisoned without charge and held for nearly three years. While there, he says in his lawsuit, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents interrogated him before his release in July 2006.

Shortly after his release, he was listed as an Al-Qaida associate by the United Nations Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, which subjected him to a travel ban and an asset freeze. While the sanctions didn’t prohibit him from returning to Canada, the Canadian government refused him a temporary passport until 2009 when the Federal Court of Canada compelled authorities to bring him back, finding Abdelrazik ’s charter-mandated mobility rights had been violated. He returned to Canada that year.

As early as 2007 both the RCMP and CSIS formally confirmed in letters to cabinet there was insufficient evidence to label Abdelrazik a criminal or a terrorist. Armed with those letters in early 2011 he petitioned the UN to remove his name from its terror list.

It was shortly after that Abdelrazik claims the government of Canada launched a smear campaign against him. Abdelrazik alleges an unnamed government official leaked a story to Montreal’s La Presse newspaper in August 2011, which alleged he had participated in terrorist activities between 1997 and 2001. The story was reportedly based on secret documents prepared by CSIS alleging Abdelrazik’s participation in an alleged plot to attack an aircraft traveling to France from Montreal. In addition, it claimed his car contained traces of explosives, and that he had attended an Al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.

Abdelrazik publicly denied the allegations after they were picked up by a variety of media outlets, and in the lawsuit characterizes them as “inflammatory, selective and grossly unfair.” He claims the leak was timed specifically to derail his bid to be removed from the UN committee’s list, causing him “anxiety and anguish.”

Faced with few options to shake the terrorist label, Abdelrazik is now taking the Canadian government to court, claiming the leak that set off the media firestorm amounted to misfeasance in public office on the part of Canada’s Attorney General. Earlier this month, he filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada claiming the leak and subsequent media coverage damaged his reputation, threatened his well-being and caused him emotional and psychological distress. He’s seeking $500,000 in damages.

“There is a pattern of Canadian government officials unlawfully leaking documents or information about individuals suspected or perceived to be associated with terrorist activities,” the complaint states, adding that the story is similar to the case of Maher Arar, who was also smeared by government leaks which Arar Inquiry Commissioner Justice Dennis O’Connor said were designed to harm the Syrian-born engineer, conduct which O’Connor called “egregious.”

Whether Canadians are sympathetic to Abdelrazik ’s plight is questionable, but it’s clear that the Tory government is not. According to the lawsuit, both former CSIS head Richard Fadden and former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney alluded to Abdelrazik in public speeches, cautioning Canadians to give agencies the benefit of the doubt in such cases while criticizing “news stories that portray those accused of terrorism as ‘quasi-folk heroes.’”
The government has yet to file its response. The office of the attorney general was not immediately available for comment.