2018/07/12 – A former double agent for Israel and Iraq won’t be in danger if he’s deported to Tunisia because no one would remember his “distant past” and the current regime has made efforts to address the use of torture against detainees, the Federal Court has heard.
“I’m not here to say things in Tunisia are wonderful. I’m not going to convince the court otherwise,” government lawyer Judy Michaely said Wednesday at a Toronto appeal hearing of Ottawa’s decision that Hussein Ali Sumaida’s life is not at risk if returned to Tunisia.“The use of violence does occur but it is very much focused on clamping down on religious extremists and insurgents that go to fight for ISIS (the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.)”
Born in Baghdad to a prominent member of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist party, Sumaida, 53, a dual Iraqi-Tunisian citizen, was an informant for the Iraqi intelligence services, Mukhabarat, as well as the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, in the 1980s.
Canadian officials have been trying to remove him ever since he sought asylum in Toronto in 1990 and was deemed inadmissible to the country a year later due to “espionage” activities they said made him complicit in crimes against humanity.
In 2005, after years of appeals and challenges in courts and tribunals, Sumaida was deported to Tunisia, where he claimed he was tortured by local officials immediately upon his arrival. He made his way back to Toronto a year later via Amsterdam under a false identity.
In 2007, an immigration officer determined he would be at risk of torture or death if he was returned to either Iraq or Tunisia. Nine years later — in late 2016 — Sumaida was informed officials would again assess his case to determine if it’s safe to send him back to Tunisia. Ottawa also refused to grant the Hamilton father of three permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Last year, a delegate of the immigration minister found Sumaida’s story of torture and escape from Tunisia “implausible.” The delegate said the human rights conditions in that country have changed such that Sumaida’s life would no longer be in danger, despite a submission by Amnesty International that found the man remains at risk in the North African country.
In concluding Sumaida would be safe to go back to Tunisia, the minister’s delegate cited Sumaida’s 1991 autobiography, The Circle of Fear, A Renegade’s Journey from the Mossad to the Iraqi Secret Service, in which he described himself as a “chameleon” in being able to fit in and survive in all environments.
Jared Will, Sumaida’s lawyer, argued that the decision was unfair because his client was not given the opportunity to respond to the minister’s delegate’s concerns. He also accused officials of citing international reports selectively to boost the current Tunisian government’s human rights records.
“He had no meaningful opportunity to participate in the (assessment) process,” Will told Justice Yvan Roy. “What happened is the respondent honed the records and looked for evidence to support the minister’s delegate.”
Will said if the minister’s delegate was trying to paint Sumaida as a dishonest person like his self-described chameleon, she should have indicated her concern about his credibility and given him a chance to address it.
The court has reserved judgment.
Sahel-Elite / Picture: Hussein Ali Sumaida, a former double agent for the Israeli intelligence service and the Saddam Hussein regime, is back in court fighting to stay in Canada, where he first sought asylum in 1990. (NICHOLAS KEUNG / TORONTO STAR)