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Cablegate: Algerian Seeking Haven in Quebec Church Arrested And

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS QUEBEC 000044

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF PHUM CA CVIS KISL SMIG
SUBJECT: ALGERIAN SEEKING HAVEN IN QUEBEC CHURCH ARRESTED AND
DEPORTED TO U.S.

1. (U) The case of an Algerian asylum-seeker who had been
living in Montreal for the last six years came to a head this
weekend. Mohamed Cherfi, 35, was finally refused asylum by the
Canadian government and was deported to the United States March
5. The case has sparked demonstrations and outcry in the press
over the violation of traditional church sanctity.

2. (U) Cherfi had sought refuge at St-Pierre United Church in
downtown Quebec City on February 10 at the invitation of pastor
Reverend Gerald Gore. Cherfi was arrested by several local
police on March 5 and was taken to the border the same day and
handed over to U.S. officials. According to press reports, he
is currently detained in Malone, New York awaiting to be
returned to Algeria, his home country. Cherfi had reportedly
transited through the United States on his way to Canada in
1998.

3. (U) A solidarity committee and several internet sites have
been set up in Cherfi's defense and a national day of action is
planned in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and
Vancouver March 9. His defenders claim he was targeted for
removal from Canada because of his political activism in favor
of "non-status" Algerians and other refugees. Cherfi and his
Canadian girlfriend Louise Boivin claim he will be tortured and
perhaps killed if returned to Algeria. Among those have called
for the end of deportation procedures and the repatriation of
Mr. Cherfi to Quebec are Parti Quebecois MNA for Taschereau
Agnes Maltais (former Minister for Cultural Affairs), local Bloc
Quebecois MP Christiane Gagnon, Amnesty International and the
Quebec League of Rights and Liberties. Quebec Minister for
Citizen Relations and Immigration Michelle Courchesne has
reportedly turned further comment and action over to her federal
counterpart Anne McLellan.

4. (SBU) Comment: This is the first time we have heard of
sanctuary in church being "violated" in Quebec in recent
history. While it is not a legal protection, it has become a
accepted that police will not arrest someone inside a place of
worship. Minister Courchesne mentioned the case to CG
Bernadette Allen this weekend when they were both attending a
non-governmental seminar on racial profiling in Canada. We
expect this case will continue generating public interest,
particularly if Cherfi is returned to Algeria.

5. (U) Montreal contributed to this cable.

KEOGH

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