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British MP George Galloway hoping to testify in Federal Court over entry ban

TORONTO - A controversial British MP denied entry into Canada on the grounds he supported a terrorist group welcomed a court decision to hear his case, saying Monday he would like to testify in person.

TORONTO - A controversial British MP denied entry into Canada on the grounds he supported a terrorist group welcomed a court decision to hear his case, saying Monday he would like to testify in person.

In a statement from London, George Galloway called the decision by the Federal Court to review the ban a "substantial" win.

"I'm really pleased that the first step in the eventual victory has been achieved," Galloway said.

"I am confident that the court ... will make the correct decision - that I was unfairly banned."

Galloway was to make a four-city speaking tour in March but was denied entry to Canada. The case sparked an uproar about freedom of speech.

At the time, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, "I believe folks that are supporting and promoting and helping terrorist organizations are not needed to visit Canada."

The outspoken MP strenuously denied supporting terrorism.

He argued he supported the people of Gaza and could only do that through dealing with its elected Hamas government, which Canada considers a terrorist organization.

Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi said Monday it was never the minister's decision to keep Galloway out.

"The minister of immigration refused to overturn a preliminary assessment by the Canada Border Services Agency that Galloway was inadmissible to Canada on the grounds he had supported a terrorist organization," Velshi said from Ottawa.

"As the matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment (further)."

Galloway also launched a libel suit against Kenney, but dropped that several months ago.

"It's so expensive, he couldn't see it through to the end having already spent something like $30,000 or $40,000 - it was going to cost $1 million or more," Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay, said from Scotland.

"So, we've concentrated our powder really on this case rather than on the libel case."

McKay said the MP was keen to testify in person, but that would depend on whether Galloway would be allowed into Canada or otherwise be able to appear via a video link.

Galloway's supporters, including the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and other peace groups, failed in March to win an emergency injunction to allow him into Canada so he could speak.

In nixing that request, a Federal Court judge said he did not have enough information to make a decision, but added that he did believe there were "serious issues" to be tried.

Galloway later addressed his Canadian audiences on his opposition to the war in Afghanistan and his humanitarian support for people in Gaza via a video link.

His lawyers are now awaiting government documents related to the issue ahead of the Federal Court hearing.

Toronto lawyer Hadayt Nazami said he welcomed the decision to grant leave for the review.

"We are pleased that we are going to have our day in court," Nazami said. "Obviously, it's a significant step in the process."

Federal Court is expected to hear the case Jan. 26.

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