Montreal Imam Saïd Jaziri, founder of Montreal’s Al Qods Mosque, was deported from Canada on October 22. His resident status was cancelled in 2006 on grounds that he failed to reveal a criminal record from France when he applied for refugee status in 1997. At the same time, his Canadian wife was admitted to hospital, eight months pregnant and experiencing contractions.
Back in 1993, he was convicted in France of inciting a group of people to beat up a man he felt responsible for closing a prayer room in an immigrant shelter, according to Globe and Mail reporter Tu Thanh Ha. Jaziri claims that his record was expunged by French authorities in exchange for his cooperation.
Jaziri gained wide public attention because of his vocal advocacy of sharia law and because he led a protest demonstration against the Danish cartoons. He also visited Hérouxville, along with a woman wearing a hijab, to test the town’s reaction.
The imam claimed that, if returned to Tunisia, his birthplace, he would be in danger of imprisonment and mistreatment. In 199l, he was sentenced to jail there for membership in an illegal organization and for distributing leaflets. Amnesty International has expressed concern about mistreatment of dissidents in Tunisian prisons, most recently in the cases of men returned from Guantanamo. Back in Tunisia, human rights advocate and lawyer Radhia Nasraoui, who will be representing him there, found his deportation to be “depressing and scandalous,” agreeing with critics who say that the risk of imprisonment and torture are quite real and citing a previous case of the treatment of a returned man. “The Canadian government cannot say that they did not know the risks,” she charged.