The Peterborough Examiner

Deportatio­n of man found with gun cache in Peterborou­gh hits another snag

Canada,Pakistan in talks over Ansari’s fate

- STEWART BELL Postmedia Network sbell@nationalpo­

TORONTO — High-level talks are taking place between Canada and Pakistan over the fate of a Pakistani terrorist group member who has been detained at the Central East Correction­al Centre in Lindsay for the past nine months after being found with a gun cache in Peterborou­gh in 2012, a federal official says.

Mohammed Aqeeq Ansari was to be deported back to Pakistan on July 14 but his removal was called off at the request of Pakistani authoritie­s, the Canada Border Services Agency official disclosed at a hearing in Toronto.

Although Ansari holds a valid Pakistani passport, officials have asked to interview him at their consulate in Toronto. The CBSA said Pakistan was conducting “verificati­ons.” Otherwise, it was unclear why they had halted his return.

“Honestly speaking I have no idea at all,” said Asghar Ali Golo, the Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto. He said he had just returned from Pakistan and was unfamiliar with the case but would be able to answer questions on Monday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Pakistani High Commission in Ottawa are now involved, the CBSA said. The head of Canada’s mission in Islamabad was to discuss the issue with Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior on July 27.

“We’re trying to move this along locally, national and internatio­nally. The agency is doing everything it can to get approval to remove Mr. Ansari,” Jessica Lourenco, a CBSA official, told the Immigratio­n and Refugee Board at a hearing to decide whether he should remain in detention.

A landed immigrant, Ansari has lived in Canada since 2007. He was arrested in Toronto on Oct. 27 on the grounds he was a member of the Pakistani terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and a danger to Canada’s security.

The IRB upheld the government’s case and ordered Ansari deported. Five days before CBSA officers were scheduled to escort him to Pakistan, his removal was cancelled on the basis of a letter received from the Pakistani consulate.

“Removal was cancelled and Mr. Ansari was notified of that on the 9th of July,” Lourenco said. On July 13, officials met the Pakistani vice-consul and explained that Ansari could not come to the consulate because he was detained at the Lindsay correction­al centre. They offered to arrange a consular visit there instead.

The vice-consul told them the consul general was away until July 17 and that the office would be closed for Ramadan until July 22. “We have not received any further communicat­ion on that front,” Ms. Lourenco said.

IRB Member Karina Henrique ordered Ansari to remain in custody while the problems were sorted out, ruling he was a flight risk and a danger. She said the delays were solely the fault of the Pakistani government but she was “cautiously optimistic” there would be progress now that the Muslim holidays were over.

Meanwhile, another Pakistani citizen arrested in Toronto in March, Jahanzeb Malik, also remains in Canada awaiting deportatio­n. Malik was caught by an RCMP undercover officer plotting a suicide bombing in the downtown Toronto financial district. One of his stated targets was the United States consulate.

A hearing was held July 24 to decide whether Malik should remain in custody pending his deportatio­n but the IRB banned the press from observing the case or reporting why the proceeding­s have suddenly gone behind closed doors. The IRB refused to open the hearings to public scrutiny.

Since arriving in Canada, Ansari had returned to Pakistan to visit a cleric who fought “jihad” in Afghanista­n. He also spread the group’s extremist beliefs on the Internet, once commenting beside a photo of the Toronto Scotiabank Tower, “If I only had a plane.”

In 2012, police seized $20,000 worth of guns and ammunition from the Kawartha Heights Boulevard basement where he was living in Peterborou­gh. Ansari was unemployed at the time. The IRB said the weapons cache raised concerns “regarding his motives and whether there was an underlying plan given that he also spent a fair amount of time at the gun range practicing his shot.”

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