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Feds under fire

TORONTO - Ottawa has no excuse for failing to help a Toronto woman who was detained in Kenya for nearly three months over false claims that she was an impostor, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

TORONTO - Ottawa has no excuse for failing to help a Toronto woman who was detained in Kenya for nearly three months over false claims that she was an impostor, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

"Something is fundamentally wrong when we can't count on the Canadian government to stand up for Canadians," he said. "I'm not sure I can put it any more directly than that."

Canadians expect their government to come to their aid when they're in distress, no matter where they are, McGuinty added.

"That didn't happen in this particular circumstance, and there's no excuse for that."

The Liberal premier was referring to Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, who has been stranded in Kenya since May.

The Somalian-born woman was unable to leave the country after authorities said her lips did not match her four-year-old passport photo.

Canadian consular officials called her an impostor, voided her passport and turned her case over to Kenya for prosecution.

Officials maintained that she was not who she claimed to be, even after Mohamud handed over numerous pieces of identification, offered fingerprints and finally demanded her DNA be tested.

It wasn't until the genetic tests confirmed her identity Monday that the federal government began preparing emergency travel documents that would permit her to return to Toronto and reunite with her 12-year-old son.

There are still outstanding charges that are preventing Mohamud from leaving Kenya.

The charges, which include using another person's passport and being in Kenya illegally, were laid as a result of Canadian consular officials calling her an impostor.

The federal government has asked Kenyan authorities to drop the charges, which is expected to happen Friday at a court hearing in Nairobi, said Natalie Sarafian, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

"The government is doing everything in its power to facilitate the travel of Ms. Mohamud as soon as possible," she said in an email.

Foreign Affairs confirmed Wednesday night that Mohamud had been to the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi to begin the process of applying for an emergency travel document.

"Outstanding charges in Kenya remain an obstacle to her exiting Kenya," said spokeswoman Emma Welford.

Welford said Mohamud and her Kenyan lawyer will be required in person at Kenya's High Court on Friday where Canadian officials will be present as well.

A travel document will be issued after court proceedings are complete and flight arrangements for Mohamud have been made, Welford said.

Mohamud, who completed the forms to obtain the emergency travel documents on Wednesday, said she's still upset that the Canadian government did little to help her.

"Well, of course I'm angry," she said in a telephone interview from Nairobi.

"All of these problems they put me through, I'm supposed to be angry."

Although she calls her son Mohamed every evening, she still worries about him, she said. He is currently in the care of a family friend.

"Whatever I really wanted to say to (the federal government), I really don't want to say right now," she said.

"I have to be with my kid first."

Her Canadian lawyer Raoul Boulakia said Canadian officials have been unwilling to issue the travel documents or book her a flight back to Canada until the charges are lifted.

However, he's asked them to make arrangements so she can leave Friday night.

"I don't have a guarantee that they will do that, but I have asked it and I'm optimistic that they will book a flight for Friday night," he said late Wednesday.

Since Mohamud is expected to leave Kenya on Friday, Boulakia said he has cancelled his appearance before a Federal Court to demand that the government repatriate his client back to Canada within 48 hours.

Mohamud was visiting her mother in Kenya and was about to fly back to Canada when officials stopped her May 21 in the Nairobi airport, claiming she was not the same person pictured in her four-year-old passport photo.

After her case was handed over to Kenyan authorities, Mohamud spent eight days in jail before being released on bail without travel documents.

Results of a DNA test released Monday - one that compared Mohamud's genetic makeup with that of her son - showed a 99.9 per cent match between the two.

Canada footed the $800 bill for the genetic testing.

The case has raised questions of how consular officials determine the identity of Canadian citizens and whether the government is picking and choosing which Canadians it assists.

Another Canadian, Brenda Martin, was freed from a Mexican prison last year after her plight drew national headlines and put pressure on Ottawa to respond.

Martin spent two years behind bars in connection with an Internet fraud scheme run by her former boss, Alyn Waage, but has maintained she was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Amid mounting pressure from family members, friends and politicians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened and called Mexican president Felipe Calderon to discuss Martin's case.

So far, Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan have avoided comment about Mohamud's case.



Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Van Loan, would only say that the minister has asked the Canada Border Services Agency and his department for a full account of what happened.

An agency spokeswoman said Mohamud's case has been transferred to Foreign Affairs.

 
 
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