Abousfian Abdelrazik spent a comfortable stopover in an Abu Dhabi airport lounge, on his way to a reunion with family and friends in Canada after six years of imprisonment and exile in Sudan.
For the first time in 14 months, he left the Canadian embassy in Khartoum yesterday, at about 1:30 p.m. local time. But his return to Canada today, on the orders of a Federal Court judge, will renew questions about the murky UN terrorism blacklist that stranded him there.
A group of supporters is expected to greet him when he steps through the arrival gate this afternoon at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, where he'll say a few words to reporters before being driven to Montreal for a private reunion with his family and a downtown midnight rally of those who supported him during his exile.
Internet updates provided by his lawyer and supporters followed him leaving the embassy at 1:30 p.m., embarking on a flight at about 4 p.m., and arriving in Abu Dhabi about four hours later. It was 42 degrees and he spent the stopover in an air-conditioned lounge.
"He was saying that he couldn't contain his excitement. He was very excited about just moving because he's in the embassy so long," Audrey Brousseau, one of his lawyers, said after speaking to him by phone from Ottawa.
Mr. Abdelrazik was escorted by two RCMP officers, two Canadian diplomats and his own lawyer, Yavar Hameed. He was to depart on a 10 a.m. flight - 2 a.m. Toronto time - scheduled to arrive in Toronto at 4:40 p.m. today.
Although for years the UN Security Council did not reveal why Mr. Abdelrazik was placed on the no-fly list, it published this week an unsourced "narrative" echoing the U.S. Bush administration's 2006 allegations that he is linked to al-Qaeda.
It claims that Mr. Abdelrazik recruited for al-Qaeda, played a role in a Montreal al-Qaeda cell, was acquainted with Osama bin Laden and travelled to an Afghanistan terror training camp.
Both the RCMP and the CSIS said in November, 2007, that they have no evidence he has ever been involved in any crime. But in April, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon reneged on a promise to issue an emergency passport if he could get a plane ticket - and only relented under court order.
Ms. Brousseau said it would be a shock if Mr. Abdelrazik faced arrest on his return. "I'd be very surprised because they don't have any evidence," she said.
The Canadian government has sometimes detained immigrants on allegations they are un-charged terror suspects, but Mr. Abdelrazik is a citizen so that "security certificate" process cannot be used against him.
But while he will be a free man in Canada, his freedoms will be limited. Because he is still on the UN blacklist, Canadian law prohibits anyone from giving him money or a job. His lawyers are expected to challenge that at the Federal Court of Canada.
It was a Federal Court judge, Mr. Justice Russel Zinn, who ordered the Conservative government to stop obstructing the return of a Canadian citizen, and bring Mr. Abdelrazik home to appear in his court July 7.
He blasted the UN blacklist as "like Kafka," saying it is impossible for a man like Mr. Abdelrazik to challenge the vague assertions of links to al-Qaeda.
New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, who has pushed the government to repatriate Mr. Abdelrazik, said the whole UN blacklist will come under closer scrutiny.
The Commons foreign affairs committee will be asked to review his case, but a public inquiry will probably be needed, not just to examine what happened, but to review the UN no-fly list.
Canada, now campaigning for a 2010-2011 seat on the UN Security Council, should state as part of its campaign that it would push for a revamp of the blacklist if it wins the seat, Mr. Dewar said. If there's no change, Canada will have to reconsider how it can still apply the UN measures under its own laws, since it is not a fair process, he said.
"It's such a mess that I think we can say, 'We can't abide by this resolution, the way it's been contemplated,' and to put that on notice to the Security Council," he said.