- Former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammad was born in 1943 in the northern part of what is currently the state of Israel. During the conflict surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948, when the nascent Jewish state was attacked by an alliance of five Arab armies seeking to annihilate it, Mohammad and his family relocated to a refugee camp in Lebanon.
While Mohammad was working as a schoolteacher in the late 1960s, officers of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) recruited him to take part in a December 26, 1968 terrorist attack at the airport in Athens, Greece. In that operation, Mohammad and an accomplice attacked an Israeli El Al airliner with guns and grenades, killing one person in the process and wounding a flight attendant. In 1970 a Greek court convicted Mohammad of manslaughter and sentenced him to 17 years in prison, but he was released just three months later as part of a hostage exchange that took place after fellow PFLP members stormed yet another plane and demanded Mohammad’s release. From there, Mohammad went to live in Lebanon.
In 1984 Mohammad spent a few months in Cyprus until he was barred from re-entering the country for security reasons, at which point he relocated to Madrid, Spain, where he set up a leather-and-textiles export business. Mohammad subsequently lied to Canadian authorities about his criminal past and his ties to the terrorist PFLP, and as a result he was permitted to enter Canada as a resident on February 25, 1987. For the next 26 years he would live in Brantford, Ontario with his Lebanese wife and their three children.
Following a January 1988 media exposé about the duplicity Mohammad had used in order to gain entry to the country, the Canadian government began a deportation hearing against him in March of that year. On December 14, 1988, the government pronounced him unfit to remain in Canada and ordered that he be deported. But Mohammad, in response, applied for refugee status. That same year, he was quoted as saying that he “was fighting Israel, the enemy of my people” as “a freedom fighter—not a terrorist.”
On August 21, 1989, a credible-basis hearing was initiated to determine whether Mohammad had enough evidence to justify a full refugee hearing. After getting bogged down for nearly three years by legal arguments over whether the media should be permitted to attend the proceedings, the hearing drew to a close on April 22, 1992. Seven months later, the adjudicator ruled that Mohammad merited an opportunity to present his case at a full refugee hearing, which ultimately got underway on March 8, 1993. In June 1995 a refugee panel ruled that Mohammad not only failed to qualify as a conventional refugee, but was further ineligible because he had committed a “serious non-political crime.” Still, Mohammad managed to stave off deportation by filing appeal after appeal in court, arguing that the government was illegally trying to exile him under legislation that had not yet been in place when he first arrived in Canada.
In 2002 Mohammad was offered an opportunity to apply for an assessment of the risks he might face if deported, and to thereby try to persuade the government to reconsider his application as a refugee. When the Canadian government determined in 2003 that Mohammad could safely be exiled to Lebanon, he again tied up the court system with multiple appeals, this time alleging that he was suffering from a host of infirmities (diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, chronic prostatitis, reactive depression, diabetic neuropathy, migraines, kidney disease, and hepatitis-B), and that he needed to remain in Canada to continue getting his treatments and medications. Mohammad’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, claimed that any “restrictions on [her client’s] access to medical care would be cruel and unusual” punishment.
In 2007 a Canadian government risk-assessment officer determined, in contradiction to the 2003 ruling, that Mohammad would be at risk of torture if he were to be deported. “I’ll fight to the last moment [to say in Canada],” Mohammad said resolutely in 2008. “I am not going to give up.”
But in 2012 the Canadian government again reversed course, stating that Mohammad would not be at risk if he were to be removed to Lebanon, and informing him that he was slated for deportation in April 2013. That date was pushed back, however, to allow Mohammad to undergo an angioplasty procedure in early May. His lawyers subsequently tried to persuade a court to let their client remain in Canada until he had more fully recovered from the surgery, but government officials deported Mohammad to Lebanon on May 11.
After Mohammad’s deportation, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a news conference: “We’re sending the message that we will no longer be treated like suckers by terrorists like Mr. Mohammad,” who had made “a mockery of Canada’s generosity and our fair immigration system for two and a half decades.”