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Abusoufian Abdelrazik at home in Montreal, playing with his 6-year-old son, Kouteyba. Kouteyba lives in Ottawa with Abdelrazik's estranged wife, and has had very little contact with his father who has been away for the majority of his 6 years. (Tory Zimmerman/Tory Zimmerman/The Globe and Mail)
Abusoufian Abdelrazik at home in Montreal, playing with his 6-year-old son, Kouteyba. Kouteyba lives in Ottawa with Abdelrazik's estranged wife, and has had very little contact with his father who has been away for the majority of his 6 years. (Tory Zimmerman/Tory Zimmerman/The Globe and Mail)

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Abdelrazik's lost years Add to ...

Either he is a dangerous high-ranking Islamic terrorist or a deeply misunderstood Muslim humanitarian devoted to helping the suffering in hard places.

While Abousfian Abdelrazik continues to flatly deny ever having been in Afghanistan or Chechnya, he openly admits to a long spree of travel in the 1990s that included destinations such as Pakistan, Bosnia and Georgia that were hot spots of Islamic militancy, as well as places of widespread suffering. In every case, including places never included in the long list of accusations against him, Mr. Abdelrazik insists he was only involved in humanitarian and religious work.

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"I went to those places to help people," said Mr. Abdelrazik, who is now suing the government for $27-million, claiming it willfully kept him in exile for years, arranged for his unlawful arrest in Sudan and was complicit in his torture aboard. A federal judge ordered him repatriated in June, saying the government had violated his constitutional right to return.

During six hours of intensive interviews with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Abdelrazik declined to fill many of the gaps in his personal story while at other times provided detailed and surprising accounts of trips to war zones or suffering, societies.



I will face charges anywhere, but someone needs to … produce evidence, not just have allegations. Abousfian Abdelrazik


Perhaps the most remarkable of the revelations is his account of a journey to Darfur in 2006, just after being released from his second stint in a Sudanese prison and more than a year before he sought sanctuary in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.

For a Sudanese Arab to risk going to Darfur, especially knowing the risks of irking a brutal regime that had twice imprisoned him (at Canada's request, the Sudanese claim) seems astonishing. To venture into a zone where state-backed Arab militias - the Janjaweed - were reviled as genocidal killers and serial rapists, stretches credulity.

Yet, the more Mr. Abdelrazik speaks - and often refuses to speak - about what moves him and drives him and how he will deal with what he regards as baseless accusations, the more the man as an enigma emerges.

"I had met lots of Darfuris in prison, I had heard of the suffering and I wanted to help," Mr. Abdelrazik said.

So, according to his detailed - albeit impossible-to-verify account - he and a doctor acquaintance collected funds in Khartoum, purchased "medicines and some clothes and food" and loaded them into cars, and with a small group set out for what became a high-risk, three-week expedition to Darfur.

Often animated and jumpy during two long days of interviews - especially when questioned about his alleged torture in prisons or his dealing with Canadian security agents - he was calm, almost on the verge of tears, as he recalled his Darfuri sojourn.

He tells of calling fearful villagers from a distance with a megaphone - urging them to allow his group to enter. "We are your brothers, who reject what the government is doing to you," he recalls saying.

He spoke with great sadness of villagers stricken with anemia and malaria and of running out of medicine to help.

Abousfian Abdelrazik sits down for an interview with the Globe's Paul Koring.

"It helped me to forget my own problems," he said quietly of the Darfur trip. At the time, his own considerable problems included the continuing refusal of Canadian ministers to issue him a passport or allow him to return home as well as having his name added to the UN Security Council's blacklist of terrorist suspects.

Mr. Abdelrazik unequivocally rejects the UN's terrorist blacklist portrait of him as the most dangerous Canadian Islamic extremist on the planet. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon labels him a "national security threat."

"Never," he says of accusations that he went to Afghanistan or Chechnya.

But he is quite comfortable explaining where he did go. For the record, he says he went to Egypt in 1992 in a failed effort to meet his mother who was still living in Sudan. After getting a Canadian passport in 1995, he travelled far more. He went to Azerbaijan in 1996, Pakistan in 1997, made hajj, the important Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 1998, and went Bosnia in 1999 for humanitarian reasons.

While Mr. Abdelrazik's travels never quite match the accusations against him, they sometimes come close. For instance, he denies the vague claim that he was apparently apprehended or at least identified by Russians in a part of Chechnya in 1999. However, he admits to being in Georgia, a known gateway to Chechnya. The Russian military also controlled parts of Georgia.

Similarly, Mr. Abdelrazik says he was in Pakistan, including Peshawar, gateway to the Taliban heartland of Kandahar in Afghanistan where the Taliban ruled in the late 1990s, but only to study. He denies crossing into Afghanistan or attending any extremist training camps.

"I've never held a gun," he said, "I am not a military person."

Abousfian Abdelrazik sits down for an interview with the Globe's Paul Koring.

At the same time, Mr. Abdelrazik acknowledges he has no evidence, no way of proving or documenting his version of his globetrotting. He has no letters, no postcards, no pictures, no gifts, souvenirs, and - he says - no one who can back up the accounts of his travels.

He challenges the suggestion that he needs to account for his wanderings; angrily pointing out that the accusations against him are both anonymous and lacking in detail.

Ever since I was imprisoned in Sudan "I asked for a trial," he says.

"I will face charges anywhere, but someone needs to … produce evidence, not just have allegations."

Mr. Abdelrazik has flat refutations for accusations he knows Osama bin Laden, or his lieutenant Abu Zubaydah, held at Guantanamo and who after being waterboarded more than 80 times is believed to have fingered Mr. Abdelrazik and scores of others as key operatives.

Mr. Abdelrazik's denials echo his previously sworn statements and he won't speculate on how antiterrorist agents came to regard him as a key al-Qaeda figure.

Mr. Abdelrazik has never been charged with a crime, either in Canada, the United States or Sudan. CSIS and the RCMP confirmed in writing they have no open or substantial files on him.

But the ambiguity remains. He won't, for instance, say what he was doing, nor who funded him, nor name which - if any - organization he worked with during his humanitarian travels.

When asked for details about which charities he worked for, how he funded his travel or proof of the trips, he replied testily. "I don't want to talk about it," a line he uses repeatedly when asked about the backing for his humanitarian work.

After consulting with his lawyers, Mr. Abdelrazik authorized the following statement: "My humanitarian trips abroad were funded by my religious work as a Muslim healer in Montreal and also through donations from many individuals in the Muslim community. I do not feel comfortable disclosing the names of these donors because I do not want them to appear on lists," it says.

And so, the two versions of Mr. Abdelrazik's life over the past 15 years - his vague but benign account and the sinister but equally undocumented version from shadowy state agents - remain unreconciled.

Follow on Twitter: @PaulKoring

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