HALIFAX — Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi hoped may disappear quietly to his trial for sexual assault he had undergone in Cape Breton, but on the contrary, he raised such a debate at the national level.
In the wake of the leak of the Saudi arabian, 28 years old, experts and activists for the rights of victims of crimes of sexual violence are calling for a tightening of rules to prevent such an incident from happening again.
They also ask Ottawa to investigate formally the role that may have played the saudi arabian embassy in his disappearance, which would apparently not the first case of its kind.
Little is known about the movements of Alzoabi. A note to a sheriff, dating from the December 8, said, however, quoting the lawyer of the man, “that he had fled the country some time ago”.
But how is it gone? The police had seized the passport of a former student of the University of Cape Breton to ensure that it remains in the country for his trial in the month of January.
Lee Cohen, one of the lawyers in immigration law the most experienced of Halifax, believes that the most likely scenario is that the individual has procured the travel documents to the embassy.
It is also possible that he had obtained false documents, but these are difficult to find, ” said mr. Cohen.
The embassy does not respond to emails or calls for comment on the case. But the office of the prosecutor of the Crown, clearly indicates that she was already involved in the case Alzoabi.
According to prosecutors, the embassy has paid the deposit of $ 37,500 to Mr. Alzoabi last year. He is accused of sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman – incidents that would have occurred between August 1, 2015 and march 26, 2017.
He also faces charges of dangerous driving and assault using a car for incidents that allegedly occurred in December 2015 and that would imply a man in Cape Breton. Alzoabi was also given 36 fines be different for the various offences for motor vehicles.
Hard blow for the victims
Helen Morrison, senior director of the transition house Cape Breton, believes that the leak of the man is particularly frustrating for victims of sexual assault.
“We should examine it. This is an example of a victim who is let down. The victim denounced, which is difficult to do, she pointed out in an interview. The message that you send to the victims, is that if you are powerful enough and you have enough money, you can flee and you can get away with very serious crimes.”
Peter Edelmann, a lawyer in the immigration law of British Columbia, believes that this case will have repercussions for the next bail of Saudis.
“I note that if the saudi arabian embassy (or any other) embassy is developing a habit of providing travel documents to people whose passports have been confiscated by a court, the passport of people from these countries will be an indicator of less important to the court,” he noted in an e-mail.
“This strategy of weakening the courts by an embassy could be turned against it by bringing the court to impose more stringent conditions or does not release individuals from those countries if the confiscation of a passport does not matter.”
Robert Currie, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, believes that if the intervention of the Saudis turns out, this would constitute a “flagrant violation” of the sovereignty of Canada.
This is the second time that Mr. Currie is called upon to comment on a similar case in the past 11 years.
Several other cases
In January 2007, a saudi arabian national accused of sexually assaulting two young fled Canada and returned to his country of origin, raising questions over how he left without his passport.
The canadian Press had reported at that time that Taher Ali Al-Saba, aged 19, was to appear before the supreme Court of Nova Scotia this month. He did, however, was not presented after having been reported missing in August.
The police had contacted the saudi arabian embassy in Ottawa and had been informed that Mr Al-Saba would be returned to his country, probably in August.
He was facing two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching involving a person under 14 years of age. The complainants, a boy and a girl, belonged to the same family.
There have also been cases in the United States.
According to the website “The Oregonian”, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a student of a college in Portland, Oregon, had apparently escaped during his bail so that he had to answer to a charge of hit-and-run fatal.
The news site said to have found at least five other cases of Saudis who have fled the country before facing justice or to complete their prison sentence. Among these cases, there are two alleged sex abusers, the other two believed to have made the crime of escape, and a man accused of having child pornography on his computer.
According to Mr. Currie, the canadian government and the courts must act to prevent other incidents of this kind do not recur.
At the very least, Canada should do the inquiry and protest with Saudi Arabia if it played a role in the case, he pleaded.
We don’t know yet if Ottawa is planning to intervene, and in such a case, what are his plans.
This week, the minister of foreign Affairs, asked by chrystia Freeland, has simply stated that the authorities “examined” the case.
More control at the border?
The existing controls at the border to prevent the accused from fleeing vary, according to the information received by the Agency of Canada border services (CBSA), according to Mr. Edelmann.
He said that he has heard of cases where the royal Canadian mounted police (RCMP) and the CBSA had been informed and arrested people who tried to flee.
A spokesperson for the CBSA, Allan Donovan, didn’t want to tell if the organization knew that Alzoabi had fled, according to the manifest of the passengers on the flights.
Mr. Donovan, however, has indicated in an email that with the implementation of bill C-21, Canada will have the authority to collect biographical information on all passengers leaving the country.
Regulations are being developed for the implementation of the act. This will allow CBSA officers to obtain electronic manifest of passengers.
Up to now, the agency says that it does “not collect systematic information” people who are in aircraft at the destination outside the country.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver lawyer, believes that it is only a matter of good sense, and that the authorities would have been able to notice the departure of Alzoabi.
“The travel documents from an embassy is not a passport, “regular”, then the air carrier may ask a CBSA officer to check the documents”, he wrote in an email.
“The CBSA officer looks at the computer and bingo! The person is taken in flagrante delicto, in the departures area, violating conditions of release”, he added.