TORONTO — A coalition of national organizations is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene in the case of a Canadian man detained in the United Arab Emirates for nearly a year.
Salim Alaradi has been behind bars since last August, with no charges and no explanation provided to his family on just why he's being held.
"Mr. Alaradi's situation is urgent," the letter sent to Harper said. "We are now calling upon you, Prime Minister, to take prompt and meaningful action."
The Libyan-born Alaradi immigrated to Canada from the U.A.E. with his family in 1998, living in Vancouver until he decided to return to the Middle Eastern nation in 2007 to run a home appliance business with his brother.
Alaradi and his family were on vacation last August in the U.A.E. when the 46-year-old was abruptly taken away by the country's security services.
His family, who spent the first two months after he was detained not knowing whether Alaradi was dead or alive, has only spoken to him a handful of times since then — a few phone calls and one visit at an Abu Dhabi prison where his wife noticed a burn mark on his hand, triggering fears he is being tortured.
They waited months for either charges to be laid or for Alaradi to be released, as was the case with his brother who was also suddenly detained at the same time, but Alaradi's detention simply kept being extended in 30-day increments.
After seven months, Alaradi's wife and his five children — the oldest is 17, the youngest is three — left the U.A.E., moved in with family members in Windsor, Ont., and continued to work for his release. They began to speak out about the case in recent weeks, as Alaradi is set to mark a year behind bars later this month.
The case caught the attention of several organizations, including Amnesty International Canada, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and the Libyan Canadian Community Organization, who are among those who've asked Harper to act for Alaradi.
"Your intervention is critical in ensuring that Mr. Alaradi's human rights will be respected and upheld," their letter said. "It is vital that Canada demand that he be released unless he is charged immediately with a recognizable criminal offence and brought promptly to trial in fair proceedings."
When asked about Alaradi's case, the Department of Foreign Affairs only said that consular services were being provided to a Canadian detained in the U.A.E. and that "senior Canadian officials" were in contact with the "appropriate authorities" in that country.
The reason the groups addressed their letter to Harper, and not the foreign affairs minister or others in government, was because they believe a top-level intervention is needed in the case, said Monia Mazigh, national co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.
"I think Canada does not really want to rock the boat and that's been a kind of a pattern in many cases of Canadians detained abroad," she said. "We're asking the prime minister to take this case and to do something concrete."
Amnesty International has noted that Alaradi was among 10 men of Libyan origin reportedly detained in the U.A.E. at the same time.
Alaradi's family has wondered whether the fact that another one of Alaradi's brothers was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood group in Libya may have been a factor in his detention, but it maintains that Alaradi has never been involved in politics himself.
"My uncle has done nothing wrong," said Abdussalam Aradi, an Edmonton doctor and Alaradi's 34-year-old nephew. "He has never been a member of any political party. He has always been focusing on his children, his work."
Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press