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Liberal MP takes up cause of Canadian accused of terrorism charges 

[PoliticsWatch posted 6:30 p.m. June 15, 2006]

OTTAWA  — The case of a Canadian citizen who is being held in Uzbekistan came to the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday as a Liberal MP pushed for the government to negotiate his release.

Huseyincan Celil is a Burlington, Ontario, man who arrived with his family in Canada in 2001. 

He was arrested March 27 in Uzbekistan, where he traveled to renew his visa and visit his Uzbek wife's relatives.

Before coming to Canada, Celil was once imprisoned in China for working on behalf of the minority Uighur population in Kyrgyzstan. He fled the region for Turkey in 1999. 

Celil's case has attracted international attention and the support of human rights groups and even Jason Kenney, who is prime minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary. 

In question period on Thursday, Liberal MP Paul Szabo demanded that Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay "immediately contact the Uzbekistani ambassador in Washington, negotiate the terms of a release, and obtain the necessary visas so that a government delegation could go to Uzbekistan and bring this Canadian back home to his family?"

After his arrest, friends feared that Celil was being held so he could be extradited to China where he has been sentenced in absentia to death by a Chinese court for founding a political party to work for the rights of the Uighur people.

But in May, the Embassy of Uzbekistan in London responded to appeals from Amnesty International by releasing a statement saying fingerprints revealed that Celil had been arrested in May 1998 and his name was registered by the National Security Service of Kyrgyz Republic as Guler Dilaver. 

"Mr Guler Dilaver (Huseyincan Celil) was born in 1955 in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China and citizen of Turkey," the embassy said. "He was wanted by Kyrgyz law enforcement bodies for membership in terrorism groups, kidnapping, taking hostages and illegal weapon possession. 

"The relevant authorities of Kyrgyzstan have also identified that the arrested was Guler Dilaver (Huseyincan Celil). According to information of Kyrgyz law enforcement bodies, Mr Dilaver (Celil) uses undercover names of Hussein Calil, born in 1968, or Calil Husan Siddikovich, born in 1970, or Huseyincan Celil, born in 1969.

"He had been on the Interpol wanted list since 13 August 2002. The warrant for his arrest was signed by the Prosecutor-General of Kyrgyz Republic in January 2001."

Kyrgyz authorities say Dilaver was involved in the 2000 murder of an Uighur community leader and an attack on a visiting official delegation from Xinjiang in Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbekistan's government is seen as one of the most repressive in the former Soviet Union and has drawn criticism for cracking down on political foes and dissident Muslims.

Celil's lawyer has denied the allegations and told the Toronto Star last month that he was compiling documents to refute those charges. 

Chris McLeod told the Star that Celil was living "in Turkey under UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) administration at the time" when the terror-related incidents occurred.

Szabo told PoliticsWatch he was not concerned about the allegations floating around about Celil. 

"(His) lawyer told me that there is some allegations that are flying around. They are working feverishly to get information so they can refute them. 

"The Kyrgyzstan. allegations have been totally refuted," Szabo says. "He was physically not on the continent at the time when they were allegedly held.

"I can't say he hasn't done anything wrong. I can tell you there's no question that this is not a matter of let's just go and snatch the guy and bring him out. If there is a wrongdoing to be addressed, it should be address."

Celil is not one of Szabo's Mississauga South constituents, but his case was brought to his attention by Imam Adam Esse, president of the Coalition of Muslim Organizations, who he has helped assist in immigration cases in the past.

Celil also served as an imam at a Hamilton mosque and is a married  father of six.

Szabo said Celil's case is an important test for what it means to be a Canadian citizen. 

"The important thing here is that he's a Canadian citizen and he's entitled to international human rights, which means he gets due process, proper representation and access of his legal counsel and his family to him for visitation," he added. 

"Since there is only one class of Canadian citizen, this actually will form the benchmark as to how Canadians abroad who get into difficulties should expect to be treated by the Canadian government at those times."

Thursday marked the third time Szabo raised Celil's case in the House. 

In April, before Uzbekistan alleged that Celil's fingerprints matched that of a terror suspect, Szabo was able to get MacKay to commit in the House to "take all diplomatic measures possible and necessary to intervene in this particular case."

On Thursday, Szabo accused the government of not pushing hard enough and said Celil's family has been told by Uzbekistani officials that they would have preferred to release Celil to Canada but, there has not been sufficient pressure or concern raised by the Canadian government.
MacKay suggested Szabo's information was "inaccurate."

"We have had regular contact with officials in Uzbekistan," he said in the House. "We have made numerous interventions on his behalf to secure his release and we will continue to do so."

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