Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A tale of two citizens: the nightmare continues

Two items in the news today: two Canadian citizens, safely home after being exiled by their own government--but the government's war against them continues in all its fury.

Suaad Hagi Mohamud, left to rot in Kenya after being branded an "impostor" by officials in the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, was finally permitted to return after a DNA test proved that she was Suaad Hagi Mohamud. She, quite rightly, is suing the government for its unconscionable treatment of her. Now the government is lashing back.

Two pictures of her may be seen here: one as she arrived in Kenya, one as she attempted to leave. Different women? If you look closely, you can see what appear to be two identical veins in her forehead in each picture. In one, her lips are parted; in one they are not. But this photographic "evidence" is offered as proof of the High Commission's good faith in the matter. I remain as unimpressed as her lawyer, Raoul Boulakia.

We are told that interviews were conducted by a Canadian High Commission official. Mohamud apparently couldn't name Canada's Prime Minister, or the previous one. (Alas, for the apolitical majority of Canadians, this sort of thing is all too common. But I'll bet she knows Stephen Harper's name by now.)

There were other alleged gaps in her knowledge as well. She didn't know what "TTC" stood for, or "ATS," the company for which she worked, couldn't name Lake Ontario, etc., etc. Until all the facts are brought out in court, of course, we have only the government's word that these interviews even took place, or that the record of them is accurate, but even if it is, it proves nothing at all. The DNA evidence is irrefutable; her insistence upon it is a matter of public record. And, contrary to the suspicions of the official who interviewed her, she has no "younger sister" in Kenya.

In any case, if I were to be wrongfully arrested and incarcerated in a filthy Kenyan prison, I might not do so well in a series of interviews myself. I might blurt out "2006" instead of "1996," or be rattled enough to misspeak in other ways, or forget things I know perfectly well.

But this isn't stopping the tinfoil hat brigade from spinning their absurd theories: that Mohamud had lent her passport to someone else (how was she supposed to return to Canada herself without it?), and, even more fancifully, that she and an impostor switched places twice, once in the airport and once after her--or the impostor's--arrest and imprisonment. Of course, that would have to mean that the High Commission officials interviewed
both, but failed to detect any physical differences.

An apology and an offer of compensation from the Harper government would likely have laid this matter to rest. But, as we know, that's not how they roll.

Turning now to Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was recently interviewed at length by the Globe and Mail's Paul Koring, we find that he is not yet out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.

Unlike any other Canadian, he cannot open a bank account, cannot receive anything--not even food--legally, cannot access medical services (even though he suffers from serious health problems), or social assistance, cannot lawfully get a job.

Anyone who helps him, even his family, could potentially be charged under current Canadian law. CSIS is apparently still harassing him, warning neighbours to stay away from the "terrorist." He no longer knows if he's imagining surveillance, or if it's really continuing.

Abdelrazik is not a free Canadian. He's brought Khartoum with him, and it surrounds him like the walls of a prison cell. All he has to do, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon airily, is to persuade the United Nations that he isn't a terrorist. I'd ask readers to suggest how they themselves might go about doing that were they in Abdelrazik's shoes.

One tyrannical government. Officials aplenty who take their cues from it. And two Canadians, living in a continuing nightmare from which there seems no easy escape.

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