Released Canadian’s lawyer clamouring for client’s case file

From the Globe and Mail

Daniel Leblanc

Ottawa — With a report from Gloria Galloway and The Canadian Press
Monday, Aug. 17, 2009 12:00AM EDT

The Harper government will not apologize to Suaad Hagi Mohamud until it gets an internal report on the actions of the Canadians officials that left her stuck in Kenya until her return home two days ago.

But Ms. Mohamud’s lawyer is clamouring for his own access to Ottawa’s file on the three-month-old case, which has created a public-relations headache for the government.

Lawyer Raoul Boulakia said Ms. Mohamud was seen by doctors yesterday and does not suffer from either tuberculosis or pneumonia. She has a persistent cough and a weak appetite that could be due to stress and fatigue suffered after federal officials voided her passport in May, he said.

Mr. Boulakia refused to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit against the government, although he clearly wants to know what happened to Ms. Mohamud in Kenya, where she was jailed for a week and eventually underwent a DNA test to prove her identity.

"I’m not going to guess about anything, let me see the file," Mr. Boulakia said.

He added he fears that Ms. Mohamud is the victim of a "whisper campaign" from federal officials who are leaking unverified claims to the news media.

"My client is being defamed, and they can clear it all up by giving me the file," Mr. Boulakia said.

The government refused to comment on the matter yesterday, saying it is waiting for an internal report on the events.

"Our officials have an important job to make sure that our borders, our citizenship and our immigration systems are all respected, and they have thousands of decisions to make every day," Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said in an interview.

"It’s a tough job, and I am looking forward to seeing a report on how it worked in this case … before I pass judgment," Mr. Van Loan said.

All opposition parties, as well as members of the legal community and the public, have blasted the government for forcing Ms. Mohamud to wait in Kenya to confirm her identity.

The case has fuelled concerns over the Conservative government’s protection of Canadians abroad, after controversies over the cases of Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr and Sudanese-Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik.

"In our Canada, new Canadians are given help to find good jobs and don’t have to fear, when they travel abroad, that their passports will be seized and their government will deny their identity," NDP Leader Jack Layton said at a party convention in Halifax.

Mr. Van Loan said that he asked for the report on an expedited basis and hopes it will be ready "relatively soon."

"It’s not like we have had hundreds of cases like this, so I would rather wait to see the facts of this particular case before I decide it’s time to change our entire system," he said.

Ms. Mohamud arrived over the weekend in Toronto where family members and supporters were waiting for her.

"My boy, my boy," Ms. Mohamud said as she embraced Mohamed, her only child, at Pearson International Airport.

"You can’t imagine, I’m really happy to come home. I’m really, really happy to come back," she said as friend after friend pushed their way through the crowd to plant kisses on her cheeks.

"I’m glad my own nightmare is over," said Ms. Mohamud.

Ms. Mohamud made no other comment and was quickly ushered along, with the help of two police officers who had escorted her from customs.

The 31-year-old woman was visiting her mother in Kenya and was about to fly home in May when authorities stopped her at Nairobi airport saying her lips did not look like those in her four-year-old passport photo.

When she asked for assistance from the Canadian High Commission, officials there said they doubted her citizenship, voided her passport and handed her case over to Kenyan authorities for prosecution.

Ms. Mohamud then spent eight harrowing days in jail before being released on bail without travel documents and with multiple charges hanging over her head.

The charges, which included being in the country illegally, were laid as a result of Canada calling her an imposter.

In the weeks that followed, Ms. Mohamud provided numerous pieces of ID, offered her fingerprints and finally demanded that her DNA be tested to prove her identity.

All the while her son remained in Toronto, being taken care of by relatives and friends.

It wasn’t until genetic tests confirmed her identity last Monday that the federal government began preparing emergency travel documents that would permit her to return to Toronto and a reunion with her son.

A judge in a Nairobi court dropped charges against Ms. Mohamud Friday, and she boarded a plane later in the day bound for Toronto.

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