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 learned.
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 concessions.
Verdict again delayed in case of Canadian accused of collaboration
Ottawa 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 in July.