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Abusoufian Abdelrazik embraces his 6-year-old son, Kouteyba, at his Montreal home on Sept. 22, 2009. (Tory Zimmerman/The Globe and Mail)
Abusoufian Abdelrazik embraces his 6-year-old son, Kouteyba, at his Montreal home on Sept. 22, 2009. (Tory Zimmerman/The Globe and Mail)

Abdelrazik interview

Home at last, but not yet free Add to ...

He can't open a bank account. He can't get a job. It's a crime to give him anything. Some former friends shun him, fearing they too will be hounded and followed by anti-terrorism agents.

"1267, for me, is like a prison," said Abousfian Abdelrazik, referring to the United Nations' terrorist blacklist that continues to impose restrictions on his life.

Mr. Abdelrazik may be home - a federal court judge ruled that the government had trampled his constitutional rights and ordered he be allowed to return to Montreal - but he is not free.

"The impact of this tragedy is that my family has been broken … every detail of my life was destroyed," he said.

After six years of forced exile, including nearly two in Sudanese prisons, Mr. Abdelrazik is back in Montreal, trying to put some semblance of normality back into his life.

It's not easy.

Canadian law, written to give domestic clout to the UN Security Council's asset freeze and travel ban for those on the list, makes it a crime to give him money or pay him to work. (Those who paid his ticket home may be lawbreakers.) Any assets he has must be seized. Banks must report him if he tries to open an account or deposit money.

Meanwhile, he lives in a netherworld of real or imagined surveillance. He admits it is hard to know when he is really being followed - or whether he just remains constantly afraid he is being followed.

"I find two cars parked outside my house," he said. The agents, referring to CSIS, "go to my neighbours and say 'this person is a terrorist' and warn them to stay away."

He says he is trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. But then, in a moment of despair, he says they are too many and too shattered and too small to ever be re-assembled. He lives in a Montreal apartment with his daughter and stepdaughter, the children of a wife who died of cancer a decade ago. Another child lives in Ottawa, with an estranged wife. Yet another lives in Toronto and one more in Khartoum. Mr. Abdelrazik says he wants to get married again.

When he talks about taking his six-year-old son, a boy who barely knew him, to the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa for his birthday, tears fill his eyes. But just as quickly, he can sound irked and frustrated.

"[When I]apply for a job, everywhere I go I am refused," he said during two days of interviews last week.

"I want to get out from this prison, to have a normal life."

The near-impossibility of getting off the UN's 1267 blacklist - originally co-sponsored by Ottawa when Canada was last on the Security Council in 1999 - was underscored by Mr. Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court in the landmark ruling that ordered the government to allow Mr. Abdelrazik to come home.

"One cannot prove that fairies and goblins do not exist any more than Mr. Abdelrazik or any other person can prove that they are not an al-Qaeda associate," the judge wrote in his ruling. "The 1267 committee regime is, as I observed at the hearing, a situation for a listed person not unlike that of Josef K. in Kafka's The Trial, who awakens one morning and, for reasons never revealed to him or the reader, is arrested and prosecuted for an unspecified crime."

Foreign Minster Lawrence Cannon says its up to Mr. Abdelrazik to "first and foremost … get himself off that list."

Mr. Abdelrazik says his life may never again be "normal" but that being taken off the list would be a first step.

"I want to [be able to]go the mosque and people who are [now]scared to be seen with me will come to me and hug me and say ' Salaam Alaikum,' and give me a hug," he said, referring to the Arabic greeting that Muslims everywhere use.

After years in prison and forced exile, he also has serious health problems. He has been issued a health-insurance card, but it remains unclear whether doctors will regard treating him as a "service" and therefore banned under Canadian regulations enforcing the 1267 blacklist sanctions.

"I need to see the doctor for many things," he said, adding that he has physical and psychological health issues.

Ask him what would represent a return to normality and it produces a rare moment of levity.

"I want not to be in the newspaper any more; I want that my story is forgotten by everyone," he said.

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