By Tom Godfrey ,Toronto Sun
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
TORONTO - A former Yemeni diplomat who was initially refused refugee status after claiming to be an opponent of his country’s president is being granted an appeal. This follows the allegation that he faces death if sent back home for converting to Christianity.
Abdulwahab Zabeba was a former well-paid Third Secretary of the Yemen Embassy in Washington, D.C., for about two years before refusing a posting to Poland since he was “perceived” as an enemy of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, court records show.
Zabeda and his son, Mahir, fled to Canada in 2009. They filed unsuccessful refugee claims citing the claim he faced a charge of treason at home for refusing the transfer.
He sought and won leave to appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Canada that on Dec. 5 ordered a new hearing.
Zabeda in a pre-removal assessment claimed “to fear a risk of mistreatment in Yemen ... because he had converted from Islam to Christianity while in Washington.”
An Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) had previously found Zabeda not to be a credible witness or a foe of President Saleh.
“He made a refugee claim in Canada instead of the U.S. because our health care programs are better,” the court ruling stated. “Mr. Zabeba was an economic migrant.”
The high court said his alleged risk based on apostasy was new information.
“Apostasy is a crime in Yemen, punishable by death,” the court was told. “However, the government does not actively enforce the law.”
Zabeda presented letters from an Ottawa church minister and a Washington friend who claimed the lives of he and his son would be in danger in Yemen.
Evidence presented in court show there are about 3,000 Christians living in Yemen and apostates from Islam can face “the annulment of marriage, termination of citizenship and the loss of social and economic rights.”
The U.S. State Dept. in 2009 reported “several converts from Islam to Christianity continued to be detained by authorities.”
There has been several apostasy busts in Yemen including the 2008 arrest of a Christian convert for promoting Christianity and distributing the Bible.
Court was told there is evidence that apostates are subjected to wrong doing in Yemen and a new hearing was granted.
Zabeda’s lawyer refused to comment, along with officials of the Yemeni embassies in Washington and Ottawa.