A Canadian man the federal government once accused of terrorism has won a small victory in his ongoing legal battle for compensation for damaging leaks of government documents to the media.
In a recent decision, a Federal Court judge ordered Ottawa to give Abousfian Abdelrazik information about similar leaks concerning Adil Charkaoui, another Canadian the government branded as having terrorist ties.
The secret documents leaked in 2007 and in August 2011 disclosed in part a discussion Abdelrazik apparently had with Charkaoui about hijacking and blowing up an Air France plane from Montreal to Paris.
“The facts common to both leaks do create a context of relevancy,” Judge Simon Noel ruled.
“Both the 2007 and 2011 leaks relate to the same discussion. Another common fact is that both leaks were published by journalists of La Presse.”
Abdelrazik, 53, a Sudanese-born Canadian, gained widespread attention when Ottawa refused for six years to facilitate his return from Sudan, where he was imprisoned and, he says, tortured. Federal Court ruled in 2009 that Canadian anti-terrorism agents had played a role in his detention, and criticized the Canadian government’s handling of the situation.
He is suing Ottawa for damages arising from the 2011 leak, claiming it contained prejudicial and unsubstantiated allegations aimed at convincing the public that he was in fact a terrorist.
Additionally, the unproven suit asserts the government’s attempt to discredit him formed part of a pattern of behaviour aimed at smearing terrorism suspects.
To bolster his case, Abdelrazik requested government documents related to any investigations into leaks that occurred between 2003 and 2005 about Maher Arar — tortured in Syria — and about Charkaoui in June 2007.
He also asked for related records to or from then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, who said publicly after the 2011 leak that he had seen intelligence information that “makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.”
The government refused, arguing the material had no relevance. Abdelrazik, Ottawa said, was on a fishing expedition, wanted documents that went beyond his own lawsuit, that the Arar and Charkaoui cases had occurred years before, and that the RCMP was still investigating the 2011 leak.
Noel disagreed with the government in part.
He ordered the government to produce reports on any criminal and administrative investigations and any corrective measures related to the 2007 leak about Charkaoui to La Presse.
In siding with the government in part, Noel said the Arar leaks were at least a decade old and were investigated by the RCMP. He noted the Arar case was the subject of a comprehensive public inquiry, which harshly criticized the role of Canadian intelligence agents in his abuse in Syria.
“The Arar Inquiry dealt with the Arar leaks and the plaintiff will be able to rely on the findings and conclusions made,” Noel said.
The judge also refused to order the government to produce documents related to Kenney’s media comments, saying he believed Ottawa when it said there weren’t any.
Canada arrested the Moroccan-born Charkaoui as a national security threat in 2003 but kept the reasons secret and he was never charged. All restrictions on him were lifted in 2009.
Charkaoui was in the news recently after two Montreal junior colleges suspended leases granted to his Arabic schools. He said the schools were unfairly tied to students who may have gone to join jihadist groups in the Middle East.