A Canadian citizen has been charged with two counts of supporting terrorism by the United Arab Emirates, where he has spent over a year in prison amid accusations of torture, his Canadian lawyer says.
Salim Alaradi pleaded not guilty to charges of providing financial support for, and cooperating with, terrorist groups in an Abu Dhabi courtroom on Monday, Paul Champ told the Toronto Star in a phone interview from the U.A.E.
Champ said the Emirati authorities have accused Alaradi, a dual Libyan-Canadian national, of supporting Libya-based groups Libya Dawn and the February 17 Brigade.
“At this time, we have no idea what the evidence is,” Champ said.
Alaradi was born in Libya and immigrated to Canada from the U.A.E. in 1998, settling down in Vancouver with his family. He decided to return to the U.A.E. in 2007 to run a home appliance business with his brother.
He and his family were on vacation when he was arrested in August 2014.
Alaradi is a father of five and he has not been to Libya in 25 years, Champ said
“These charges really come from out of nowhere,” he said.
Alaradi’s family and human rights groups have raised concerns that he was tortured while in detention in the U.A.E.
Alaradi’s brother, Mohamed Elaradi, told the Star last August that he heard his brother’s screams echoing through the prison where they were held together.
“We are seriously concerned that Mr. Alaradi was held in a secret prison for over three months and the information that we have is that he was brutally tortured during that time,” Champ said.
“If this case is built on forced confessions . . . it’s completely baseless.”
Champ said he was not allowed to enter Monday’s hearing in the state security chamber of the Federal Supreme Court, but that Canada’s Ambassador to the U.A.E., Arif Lalani, was there alongside another Canadian consular official.
Champ said he was told that Alaradi tried to roll up his sleeves to show the judge signs of torture on his arms.
“The judge told him he didn’t want to see it at this time and he could raise the issue later in the case in his defence,” Champ said, adding that he remains in custody at Al Wathba prison near Abu Dhabi.
Alaradi’s eldest daughter, Marwa, who lives in Windsor, Ont. with the rest of her family, said she was “really, really happy and grateful” that Canadian officials attended the hearing on Monday.
She said she hoped Canada could help secure her father’s release.
“All I want is for the government to take care of my father’s case. We all know that my father has done nothing wrong and he has never been involved in politics at all,” Marwa told the Star in a phone interview Monday.
“We’re hopeful that it will end soon and that’s all I think of right now.”
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately return the Toronto Star’s request for comment on Monday.
Other cases involving Canadian ties
The families of four other men with strong ties to Canada have also called on Ottawa to intervene in their respective cases in the Middle East:
Saeed Malekpour, Mostafa Azizi
Status: Iranian-born Canadian residents imprisoned in Iran
Charge: Malekpour was sentenced to life in prison on accusations that he is behind an Internet pornography ring, while Azizi is serving eight years for “collusion against Iran.”
Status: Released from prison, but unable to leave Egypt
Accusation: Al-Qazzaz spent 558 days in detention without charge after being arrested alongside thousands of suspected Muslim Brotherhood members.
Status: Liberal blogger imprisoned in Saudi Arabia
Charge: Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of $266,000 for allegedly insulting Saudi clerics on his liberal blog. His wife, who lives with the couple’s three children in Sherbrooke, Que., has repeatedly called for his pardon and release.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Olivia Ward