Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Canadian the government was told to bring home after years of forced exile, is a senior al-Qaeda operative personally acquainted with Osama bin Laden and a key member of a Montreal terrorist cell, the United Nations Security Council blacklist committee alleged Monday.
In an unsourced "narrative" posted Monday on the UN Security Council terrorist blacklist website, it was asserted that Mr. Abdelrazik trained at al-Qaeda's Khalden camp in Afghanistan and twice attempted - but failed - to join Muslims fighting Russians in Chechnya in the 1990s.
"Mr. Abdelrazik denies and has denied these allegations," said Yavar Hameed, his lawyer. "This smacks of a new McCarthyism of guilt by association and demanding an individual prove his innocence," Mr. Hameed added, pointing to the labelling of Mr. Abdelrazik as a close associate of Abu Zubaydah, the imprisoned al-Qaeda leader who fingered many after being waterboarded more than 80 times by U.S. agents. "That information is the fruit of torture," Mr. Hameed said.
The UN notice contains little new information. It mostly echoes U.S. allegations levelled against Mr. Abdelrazik for years and first officially published in 2006 when the Bush administration added him to the UN Security Council's 1267 terrorist blacklist. Mr. Abdelrazik is the only living Canadian on the list, which has hundreds of names, some of them known to be dead.
Mr. Abdelrazik, 47, has vigorously denied any association with al-Qaeda, and has repeatedly repudiated terrorism. He has admitted knowing some alleged Islamic extremists in Montreal, including Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millennium bomber. Mr. Ressam was arrested in December, 1999, at the U.S. border in a rental car laden with explosives headed for Los Angeles where he planned to bomb the international airport.
Mr. Abdelrazik testified for the prosecution at Mr. Ressam's trial.
The UN notice was published only days after the Harper government said it would comply with a federal court order requiring it to fly Mr. Abdelrazik home. He is expected to be reunited with his children and family in Montreal in the next 10 days.
The UN claims - with few dates or specifics - that Mr. Abdelrazik recruited for al-Qaeda, played some sort of a role in a Montreal al-Qaeda cell, told at least one person he was acquainted with Osama bin Laden and travelled to Afghanistan along with other alleged Islamist extremists. No evidence or independent review is required to "name" someone to the 1267 terrorist blacklist, which has been condemned by European jurists and many rights groups.
Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn, who determined the government had violated Mr. Abdelrazik's constitutional right as a citizen to return to Canada, called the 1267 process "like Kafka," noting that it was impossible for those blacklisted to challenge the allegations "when you have no idea why you're on the list in the first place, other than that you're an associate of al-Qaeda, whatever that means."
Although both CSIS and the RCMP have formally and in writing confirmed that they have no criminal investigation open against Mr. Abdelrazik and no reason to support his continued UN listing as an al-Qaeda operative, the government continued to refuse him a passport, or even a one-way travel document, so he could return to his family in Montreal after six years of imprisonment and forced exile in Sudan, until ordered to do so by Judge Zinn.
Mr. Abdelrazik remains caught in the bizarre situation of being cleared by CSIS and the RCMP, yet labelled a terrorist and al-Qaeda operative by the UN Security Council.
Monday, as Justice department lawyers were proposing flights, routings and an diplomatic escort - all ordered by Judge Zinn - the UN posted its update in an unusual fashion.
Previous narratives have been posted in bunches after all 15 members of the Security Council approved them. By Monday's solo posting of the accusations against Mr. Abdelrazik was unprecedented, and Mr. Hameed suggested it reflected political interference.
"It's highly irregular and I don't believe it is coincidental that the UN posted this one on the eve of Mr. Abdelrazik's return," he said. "It smacks of smear by association; if there was anything criminal or substantive in terms of terrorist activity then I think our security services or those of the United States would have launched a prosecution."
Secret documents released in error by the Canadian government reveal the George W. Bush administration wanted Canadian security agents to feed evidence so Mr. Abdelrazik could be indicted in the United States.
As early as 2004, Washington security agencies asked Ottawa to try and keep Mr. Abdelrazik from returning to Canada, a request CSIS and the RCMP apparently kept from ministers.
By the end of 2007, after more than four years of imprisonment and forced exile in Khartoum, where he was interrogated by CSIS, the Canadian government finally agreed to seek his delisting from the UN blacklist.
"The RCMP conducted a review of its files and was unable to locate any current and substantive information that indicates Mr. Abdelrazik is involved in criminal activity," its counterterrorism branch confirmed on Nov. 15, 2007.
CSIS "has no current substantial information regarding Mr. Abdelrazik," said Canada's spy agency, which has subsequently denied allegations contained in secret and heavily redacted documents that assert CSIS arranged for Mr. Abdelrazik's imprisonment in Sudan when he went to visit his ailing mother in 2003.
"The evidence before the court establishes, on the balance of probabilities, that the recommendation for the detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by Sudan came either directly or indirectly from CSIS," Judge Zinn ruled. "I find, on the balance of probabilities, on the record before the court, that CSIS was complicit in the initial detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by the Sudanese."