After days of fearing he could be re-arrested at any moment, a Windsor man who was tortured and wrongly imprisoned in a Middle East prison flew out of the United Arab Emirates Thursday.
Salim Alaradi, initially charged with terrorism offences, spent 645 days in prison. Even after he was acquitted, it didn’t seem like UAE State Security officials would allow him his freedom.
“The acquittal on Monday was really great and really felt like we reached the finish line after such a long campaign, but there were a few twists and turns in the end,” Paul Champ, an Ottawa-based human rights lawyer, said after the plane took off. “The last few days have been quite stressful. We were concerned about whether we’d be able to get him out of the country safely. But the plane is in the air now and he’ll be reunited with his family soon. It was quite a nail biter right to the end.”
Alaradi was flying to Istanbul to receive medical treatment for a host of issues. His family said some of those issues come from being tortured.
He’ll likely return to Canada in a week or so. Alaradi plans to live in Windsor with his family. His daughter Marwa, who led the campaign to free him, hasn’t seen Alaradi since UAE State Security officials snatched him from a Dubai hotel in August 2014.
“Yesterday my daughter Marwa told me that I have thousands of friends, supporters and organizations across the world who worked so hard for my freedom,” Alaradi said in a video he recorded Thursday. “I boarded the plane and it will take off soon. Thank you so much for getting me this far. I am not home yet, but I am a plane ride away. God Bless you all. Thank you.”
It was a joyful end to a few tense days. Despite his recent acquittal, UAE State Security officers took him back into custody.
They finally released him on Tuesday, but told him couldn’t leave the country because he was banned from travelling. Alaradi received word he might be able to leave Wednesday and went to the airport, but was again barred from boarding a plane.
He finally stepped on a plane Thursday around 2:30 p.m. Windsor time. A Canadian consular official escorted him through the airport, the immigration check and up to the gate. Champ was getting updates every 10 minutes.
“There were a few times there where it looked like they were not going to let him through,” said Champ.
He said Alaradi’s team had heard that State Security might arrest him again.
“We got it from reliable sources that State Security was unhappy with the result, and they were the ones blocking him from leaving the country, and that there was some interest in finding some kind of immigration issue to re-arrest him,” said Champ.
Alaradi was first charged with raising funds for terrorist organizations, which could carry the death penalty. A prosecutor withdrew the terrorism charges in March but slapped him with new charges.
The new allegations were that Alaradi took hostile actions against Libya by sending humanitarian supplies to organizations without permission of the UAE government, and that he collected donations without permission of the appropriate ministry.
The prosecution claimed the money Alaradi collected was still being sent to militia organizations in Libya, but the charges were less serious than the previous ones.
Alaradi was acquitted of those charges on Monday.