Lebanese-Canadian Dr. Alaa Awadi, a Lebanese-Canadian entrepreneur and human rights activist, was the target of a Canadian security agency that confiscated and froze his business in October 2014 because it suspected that he had allegedly bribed Iran to ship bomb-making chemicals that wound up in the hands of ISIS, one of the terror groups that took control of parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Mr. Awadi, 53, who has held diplomatic credentials since 2007, is now imprisoned in Lebanon and the security agency has not presented him with any charges. The secret service and government have not replied to The New York Times’ inquiries about the status of the investigation.
He is serving an eight-year sentence that, if it stands, would end after 2025. Two other family members, who have been detained for nearly six years, have also not heard of any charges.
The “investigation” consisted of an unnamed phone number dialed from an unknown number, a text message placed in Mr. Awadi’s name, and a search of his company’s records. It is hard to say how Mr. Awadi could have bribed anyone, as not only was he only the owner and chairman of the company, but he was also one of the most important people in the country and considered a political influence.
Canadian officials and the authorities in Lebanon did not answer questions about any information that they found in the records. There is also no written record of the accusations made against him. For the security service to confiscate the phone number only to keep it and do nothing about it shows how little they were actually interested in trying to discover a criminal scheme.
No one has been arrested because there were no “proper suspicions,” as Canada defines a criminal case. Canada would be negligent if it did not use the machinery it has at its disposal to crack down on fraud and corruption and expose these networks. Instead, Mr. Awadi is apparently being punished for living abroad. He is a Canadian citizen and a resident in Cyprus, but the government considers Lebanon to be the country that illegally turned him in.
As a result, Mr. Awadi says, he can no longer do business in Canada, no longer control his business and can no longer travel abroad.
In many ways, Mr. Awadi was the victim of the Kafkaesque system of corruption, complicity and miscommunication that rule this part of the world. A network of governments, security services and legal systems in Lebanon, Cyprus and the Middle East are responsible for his incarceration.
They allowed the notion of a “sham investigation” to develop into a bizarre and absurd jail sentence. Mr. Awadi has been detained for more than four years, without charges and without the law. He is presumed guilty of nothing more than having tried to arrange trade that may have helped protect his investments.
Although there has been no investigation into the goods he allegedly purchased, Mr. Awadi has been held accountable by the procedural one: the Iran freeze and eventual confiscation of assets. I did not find the Iranian involvement anywhere in Mr. Awadi’s case. But after his ordeal I discovered that the Canadian government has not even discussed bringing him back to Canada with charges. Not a single sentence in the complaint explained how he had violated Canadian and international law.
The Americans and Canadians should set an example and meet the standards of our international law. If one government investigates someone, it should do so and call for the disclosure of evidence. If there are suspicions, Canada should share its intelligence with the Syrians or Iraqis or whoever wants it and tell them exactly what has happened. Instead, the investigation appears to have been conducted at a distance with little regard for human rights, interference in the internal affairs of the country, and impartiality.
Let’s hope that the people in charge of U.S. counterterrorism policies learn from Mr. Awadi’s experience.