Kenya drops charges against Canadian woman

Toronto — Globe and Mail
Last updated on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009 10:39AM EDT

A Toronto woman stranded in Kenya for nearly three months over false claims she was an imposter has had all charges against her dropped and she is now free to return to Canada, officials say.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the Kenyan court has cleared the way for Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s departure from Nairobi, “and there are no impediments to her return to Canada.

“Consular officials are assisting with her departure today.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday said Ottawa’s top task was to hasten Ms. Mohamud’s return, after weeks of silence from his cabinet ministers about the case. Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has asked for a “full accounting” of how the Canada Border Services Agency handled Ms. Mohamud’s case and will review its actions, he said Thursday.

Ms. Mohamud, who was born in Somalia, was unable to leave Kenya after authorities said her lips did not match her four-year-old passport photo. Canadian consular officials called her an imposter, voided her passport and turned her case over to Kenya for prosecution. Officials maintained that she was not who she claimed to be, even after Ms. Mohamud handed over numerous pieces of identification, offered fingerprints and finally demanded her DNA be tested.

It wasn’t until the genetic tests confirmed her identity Monday that Canadian officials began preparing emergency travel documents that would permit her to return to Toronto and reunite with her 12-year-old son.

Ms. Mohamud was visiting her mother in Kenya and was about to fly back to Canada in May when officials stopped her in the Nairobi airport. After her case was handed over to Kenyan authorities, Ms. Mohamud spent eight days in jail before being released on bail without travel documents.

Canada footed the $800 bill for the genetic testing.

The case has raised questions of how consular officials determine the identity of Canadian citizens and whether the government is picking and choosing which Canadians it assists.

Another Canadian, Brenda Martin, was freed from a Mexican prison last year after her plight drew national headlines and put pressure on Ottawa to respond. Ms. Martin spent two years behind bars in connection with an Internet fraud scheme run by her former boss, Alyn Waage, but has maintained she was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Amid mounting pressure from family members, friends and politicians, Mr. Harper personally intervened and called Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss Ms. Martin’s case.

With files from Canadian Press

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