Canada slaps total ban on Hizbollah

Reuters, Dec. 11, 2002

OTTAWA – Canada slapped a total ban on Hizbollah on Wednesday after the Lebanese guerrilla group urged Palestinians to carry out more suicide attacks in Israel. Ottawa also outlawed two other militant organizations.

Hizbollah’s military wing was banned in late 2001 but for many months Ottawa resisted pressure to outlaw the political wing, which Foreign Minister Bill Graham described as a legitimate political and social movement.

The government changed its mind after Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah urged Palestinians late last month to ignore international criticism of suicide attacks and keep up the armed struggle against Israel.

“I think this will be sending a signal to Hizbollah that its affirmation of the use of terrorism as an international instrument is not acceptable,” Graham told reporters.

Solicitor-General Wayne Easter said Hizbollah, the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult had been added to Ottawa’s list of banned organizations.

“The government of Canada has determined that these entities knowingly engaged in terrorist activity,” he said. Ottawa has now banned a total of 16 groups.

A Hizbollah spokesman in Beirut declined to comment on the move. The Syrian- and Iranian-backed group was the driving force behind ending Israel’s 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000.

Scores of Israelis have been killed in suicide attacks since the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupted in 2000.

Easter’s decision means Canada has taken a harder line on Hizbollah than Britain, which banned the movement’s military wing 18 months ago but still recognizes the political wing.

Washington, which makes no distinction between Hizbollah’s two wings, has placed the group on its list of “foreign terrorist organizations.”

Ottawa has been under increasing pressure from Jewish groups and the official opposition Canadian Alliance party to ban Hizbollah outright.

Last month the B’nai Brith organization launched a lawsuit against Ottawa to try to force its hand but Easter said this had not influenced his decision.

“In no way is this due to political pressure from anywhere. I will not be pressured politically on an issue that is this serious,” he told reporters.

“There’s no question they (Hizbollah activists) have been raising money in Canada…the purpose of this action today is to ensure that no more money is raised in Canada for the purposes of advocating terrorism.”

Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canada-Arab relations, said there was no evidence of Hizbollah activity in Canada and condemned what he said was B’nai Brith’s role in the decision.

“I’m definitely disappointed to see Canada’s policy has been hijacked by a group that supports the interests and the policies of a foreign nation,” he told CBC television.

Stockwell Day, foreign affairs spokesman for the Alliance, said Ottawa should have acted much more quickly.

“The year-long Liberal delay was reckless and may have allowed the group to raise significant funds and recruit followers,” he said in a statement.

Under the ban, Hizbollah can now have its assets seized. Any person who handles the finances or the property of the group faces up to 10 years in jail.

Aum Shinrikyo hit the headlines in 1995 when members of the cult launched a sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system, killing 12 people and making thousands sick.

The Kurdistan Workers Party fought Turkish security forces in southeastern Turkey from 1984 to 1999 in a conflict that killed more than 30,000 people.

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