IRWIN BLOCK, The Gazette
Imam Saïd Jaziri, in 2005, warned supporters at the Al-Qod mosque in Rosemont that he faced persecution if he returns to Tunisia.
Despite appeals from Amnesty International and Muslim supporters, a Montreal imam originally granted refugee status was to have been deported to Tunisia yesterday.
For security reasons, the Canada Border Services Agency, charged with his removal, refused to reveal any details of the departure of Saïd Jaziri, 36.
Agency spokesperson Érik Paradis confirmed last night that Jaziri's flight left, but couldn't say when he was to arrive in Tunisia.
On Wednesday, an Immigration and Refugee Board commissioner rejected Jaziri's bid to spend his last few days in Canada at home in Laval with his wife, Nancy Ann Adams, who is expecting to give birth to their first child on Dec. 20.
Following his testimony, commissioner Dianne Tordorf said Jaziri had "serious credibility problems" and officials feared he would not show up for his departure. He was ordered held in custody.
Jaziri lost his refugee status because he had concealed the fact he was convicted and served jail time in France for an assault on an individual whose actions had led to the closing of a prayer room.
The Ottawa-based Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations had asked Immigration Minister Diane Finley to stop the deportation because Jaziri faces "a serious risk of torture" in Tunisia.
Amnesty International's francophone section in Canada said the risk stems from his having been sentenced in absentia in Tunisia to three years in prison in December 1991 for links to a "non-authorized association" and distributing pamphlets.
However, at his immigration hearing, an Immigration and Refugee Board official said Jaziri had not been not harmed when he returned to Tunisia from France for a visit.