Canada outlaws Hamas, but not Hezbollah

Thursday, November 28, 2002 Page A1

OTTAWA -- The federal government made it illegal yesterday for Canadians to assist the Palestinian group Hamas, naming it an outlawed terror group -- but sparked renewed criticism by failing to name another group, Hezbollah.

The move places Gaza-based Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings aimed at Jews in Israel, on a shortlist of organizations that are virtually banned in Canada, alongside the likes of al-Qaeda. While membership alone is not illegal, providing any material assistance carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

After months of pressure to put Hamas and Hezbollah on the list of outlawed groups, Solicitor-General Wayne Easter announced that Hamas's record of violent attacks against Jews in Israel has earned it a place on the list. He refused to explain why the Lebanese group Hezbollah was left off.

The federal government concluded that money donated to social charities operated by Hamas had "leaked to the terrorist apparatus" -- the fact that apparently distinguishes it from Hezbollah.

In the past, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has said that while Hezbollah's military wing is outlawed, Canadians can still finance or assist the group's social wing, which conducts charitable activities.

But Mr. Easter would not repeat that reasoning yesterday, instead saying that additional groups will be added to the list of organizations named under Canada's 2001 antiterror law.

"This is a very, very serious matter, being listed under Bill C-36. They can have their assets seized and frozen and association with those groups is considered to be a crime," Mr. Easter said.

"So it's a very, very serious matter and it should be done delicately and with the full examination of the facts," he said. "You cannot, just based on some activities, do a knee-jerk reaction."

Stockwell Day, the Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic, said that the government was slow to list Hamas, taking 11 months since the antiterror bill was passed. He said recent attacks made it impossible for the Liberal government not to place it on the list, and that Hezbollah should have been added at the same time.

"It's been 15 months since Sept. 11," Mr. Day said. "They should have been on the list now. We can only hope that the pressure will continue to build on the government and they will add Hezbollah to the list."

Listing under the law means that anyone found to have financed or materially assisted Hamas can get up to 10 years in jail. In contrast, the penalties for being included on the larger United Nations' suppression-of-terrorist-financing list -- a list that includes Hezbollah's military wing -- include freezing of a group's assets.

Yesterday, five other Mideast-based groups were added to Canada's list of outlawed terror groups, in addition to Hamas: Islamic Army of Aden, Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, Asbat Al-Ansar, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Mr. Easter would not say whether Hamas has any activities in Canada, only that it is on the list because of its involvement in terrorism.

The Canadian government's release yesterday said Hamas is well-financed and organized. "Since 1990, Hamas has been responsible for several hundred terrorist attacks against both civilian and military targets.

"Hamas has been one of the primary groups involved in suicide bombings aimed at Israelis in the course of the intifada [uprising] that started in September, 2000," the release said.

Mr. Day charged yesterday that the Liberals might be refusing to include Hezbollah for "political reasons" that he did not specify.

Mr. Easter said he was "shocked" by the allegation, and that it showed that Mr. Day was treating a serious matter lightly.

The U.S. government considers Hezbollah's status as a terrorist group beyond doubt and has placed it on its own list of terrorist organizations.

U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage called the group the "A-team of terror."