This week, Sayfildin Tahir Sharif of Edmonton, AB, was brought to court and told he was facing extradition to the United States to face charges of terrorism. American prosecutors allege that Sharif supported a Tunisian terrorist network coordinating bombings in Iraq by counseling young men preparing to carry out suicide bombings, at least two of which (say the Americans) actually occurred. The Canadian press has jumped on the case over the past day or so — see, for instance, the Montreal Gazette, Winnipeg Free Press, Vancouver Sun, and CTV News.
The evidence seems more or less persuasive. Something else really worries me about this case, though: why aren’t we charging him?
It’s not entirely clear where the evidence for this case is drawn from. The Winnipeg Free Press wrote that the evidence came from American wiretaps, but the Vancouver Sun say it was an RCMP project, and even has details of the project: apparently the FBI supplied an initial tip, after which the RCMP assigned 20-25 officers to investigate Sharif under the codename SEMOLINA. On the other hand, CTV quotes an RCMP officer explaining that the investigation was headed by the FBI, and “the role of the RCMP in this one is to get this individual arrested” so that he can be extradited.
Sharif stands accused of being associated with a terrorist network that is based in Tunisia and may have committed crimes in Iraq. When people in Canada join terrorist groups, that is a criminal act. And according to at least some of the press reports, the evidence against Sharif was gathered in Canada, after investigations were approved by Canadian courts.
Which leaves us with several frightening implications. Did we authorize the American Department of Justice to enter Canada and investigate Canadians on our soil, presumably via FBI agents? Now that they’ve done that (or we did it for them — as I say, I’m not sure), is it Canadian policy to ship off citizens to America to stand trial for crimes they committed here, which we investigated with our police forces? This is a frightening surrender of Canadian sovereignty, to say the least. The matter might be different if Sharif had been in America, or even if his alleged group was in America. I fail to see why, if he is a terrorist, we shouldn’t handle him here. He’s still ours, after all.
Several years ago, the RCMP got its wrist slapped — far too lightly, I might add — for helping the Americans deport Maher Arar and several other men to Syria and other countries in the Middle East, where they were tortured. If they’ve now, once again, been reduced to local investigators at the beck and call of the FBI, then that’s a pretty disturbing state of affairs for Canada’s national police force.
The most disturbing thing of all comes midway through the editorial by the Edmonton Journal, explaining for its readers how the extradition process works:
An extradition hearing isn’t a trial — more akin to a preliminary hearing. Nothing has to be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The judge only determines if the evidence provided by the United States is such that the person would be committed for trial in Canada if that same conduct had occurred in this country.
Well, it did occur in this country. So why the @$%# is he being extradited somewhere else?
Come to think of it, there’s one other disturbing moment, although it doesn’t pertain to this case:
So far, he’s [Sharif's laywer] had only two brief meetings with Tahir-Sharif, one just become [sic] his first court appearance on Thursday, and one Thursday evening. RCMP, he says, refused to allow him to be present while they interrogated his client on Wednesday.
That’s one of the bonuses of living in the new Canadian police state, courtesy of the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled last October that even though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us “the right on arrest… to retain and instruct counsel without delay,” police are allowed to refuse suspects’ access to lawyers anyways.
So, to sum up: a Canadian citizen is probably a terrorist, and Canadian law requires that he be tried and convicted for that crime. Instead, on the request of the FBI, the RCMP opened a massive investigation (which at least one officer says was actually under American control), gathered evidence at their request, arrested him, told him he couldn’t see his lawyer until after he was charged, and are now preparing to hand him over to the Americans, for crimes he committed in Canada.
Feel safe now?
Curiously, only Tory-side bloggers, like Dr Roy, seem to be wading in on this one so far. I wonder where the other progressive bloggers are on this one.Tweet