Visit to Calgarian held in Beirut
not on Coderre's itinerary: Minister scheduled to spend five days in Lebanon
By Jack Aubry
National Post -Friday, August 29, 2003
Page: A14 -Section: News
OTTAWA - Denis Coderre, the minister of Citizenship and Immigration, is travelling to
Beirut this weekend -- but a visit with Calgarian Bruce Balfour, who has been imprisoned
there since July 10 on questionable charges, is not on his schedule, CanWest News has
Mr. Coderre will arrive in Beirut this afternoon for a five-day visit, and will meet
Lebanon's president and prime minister before leaving on Tuesday.
Sarah Bain, a spokesman for Mr. Coderre, said she could not confirm whether Mr. Balfour
would be added to the minister's schedule, or whether Coderre would even raise the case of
the evangelical Christian during meetings with Lebanese officials.
"From what I understand, since he is going to be in the country where something is
going on, it may be mentioned, but right now, it is not confirmed," said Ms. Bain.
Mr. Balfour, 52, who has been charged with spying for Israel "under cover of
humanitarian activities," will be back in military court Monday when the prosecutor
and defence lawyers are expected to make final arguments. A verdict may also be delivered
in the case.
The Christian missionary, who was on a mission to replant cedars in Lebanon when arrested,
reiterated his not-guilty plea in court Wednesday: "I did not spy for anyone and I do
not spy for anyone. I serve only the word of God and Jesus Christ."
Canadian Embassy officials in Beirut have visited Mr. Balfour in prison and report that he
is in good condition and that there are no signs that he has been mistreated.
The Chretien government has been harshly criticized recently for its timid
"soft-diplomacy" approach to Arab countries in the Middle East and their
mistreatment of Canadians.
In the case of photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was beaten to death in an Iranian prison
after being arrested for taking pictures of an Iranian prison, the woman's son said Ottawa
should do more for the return his mother's body to Canada.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham rejected accusations the Canadian government did
little to speed the release of William Sampson during his 31 months of captivity in Saudi
Arabia -- even after they found out he was being tortured.
Mr. Coderre, who did not issue a press release about his trip to the Middle East, declined
a request Thursday for an interview.
Mr. Coderre is scheduled to meet Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Rafiq
Hariri, as well as Michel Duval, the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon during the visit.
Relations between Canada and Lebanon are still sensitive since last December when the
Canadian government outlawed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Relations have not been helped by Raymond Baaklini, Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, who
has twice attracted attention from Foreign Affairs for comments made to Arabic newspapers
and magazines in Canada.
Elias Bejjani, the media chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Co-ordinating Council, says
Mr. Balfour is a "mere pawn" in the continuing dispute over Hezbollah between
the Syrian-controlled Lebanese government and Ottawa.
Mr. Bejjani said he is sure there are secret talks taking place between the two
governments and Mr. Balfour will not be released until the Canadian government makes
again delayed in case of Canadian accused of collaboration
Citizen -The Canadian Press
Denis Coderre will meet Lebanon's president and prime minister.
OTTAWA (CP) - The verdict has again been delayed in the case of a Canadian
missionary standing trial for allegedly collaborating with Israel, the Department of
Foreign Affairs said Saturday. The verdict in the Bruce Balfour case, which had been
postponed last week to Monday, has been further delayed to allow time for lawyers to make
closing arguments, said Patrick Riel, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs.
Those final remarks are expected on Monday, which is Labour Day in Canada, but a new date
hasn't yet been set for the verdict in the case, said Riel.
"We're not expecting any decision on Monday," he said. Court officials in
Beirut had earlier asked for more time to summon witnesses and study new documents in the
case. Collaborating with Israel is punishable by up to 15 years in jail in a country
technically at war with Israel. Lebanese authorities bar any traveller carrying a passport
with an Israeli stamp. It is rare, however, for such travellers to be arrested. Last week,
Balfour, a 52-year-old Christian missionary from Calgary, reiterated his plea of not
guilty. "I did not spy for anyone and I do not spy for anyone. I serve only the word
of God and Jesus Christ," he was quoted as telling the five-man military tribunal.
His lawyer, Ibrahim Hariri, argued that Balfour visited Israel on a religious mission.
Balfour had a brief meeting on Saturday with Immigration Minister Denis Coderre in Beirut,
CBC reported, citing unnamed sources. A spokesman for Coderre couldn't be reached
for comment. Balfour was arrested on July 10 at Beirut airport on a military court order
accusing him of visiting Israel and collaborating with the enemy. Balfour is believed to
have been in the Middle East directing an evangelical project to help replant the biblical
cedar forests in northern Lebanon.
Lebanese Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum said last month that he received information that
Balfour had travelled between Lebanon and Israel in a way that aroused suspicions and that
a warrant was issued on April 2 for his arrest. He was arrested upon his return to Lebanon