MONTREAL – A Congolese man accused by the Canadian government of being complicit in war crimes, and facing deportation, says he’s never so much as killed a cat.
Abraham Bahaty Bayavuge says he was a simple computer technician in his native land and has denied any wrongdoing during a detention review Friday before the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Bayavuge is the fifth person arrested from a list of 30 alleged war criminals publicly posted last week by the Conservative government.
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But he scoffed at the attempt to depict him as a threat to society.
In the seven years he lived here, openly and freely between 2000 and 2007, he said the worst thing he ever did was get parking tickets for failing to move his car.
“Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow, can anyone prove that I killed even one cat, one cat,” he told the hearing. “I wouldn’t take a human life, I respect human beings…
“In all my time in this country, the only thing I’ve gotten is tickets – for forgetting to move my car to the other side on street-cleaning days.”
At Friday’s detention hearing, commissioner Yves Dumoulin ordered that he remain detained because he is a flight risk; he is slated for deportation without any legal recourse left.
The government says it’s trying to secure travel documents from the Congolese embassy in Ottawa before sending Bayavuge home. A government spokeswoman in Ottawa would not speculate on when or where Bayavuge would be deported.
His next hearing before the IRB is scheduled for next Thursday.
Despite keeping Bayavuge detained Friday, the commissioner at the hearing also derided the notion that he is a threat to Canadian society – as depicted by Ottawa.
“I don’t really understand why he is considered a danger to the public now when (in the past) he didn’t present a danger to Canadian society and he was free throughout (the process),” Dumoulin said.
Ottawa says all 30 people on the wanted list are deemed inadmissible to Canada and are subject to deportation. They all are alleged to be complicit in war crimes or crimes against humanity, but details of exact crimes have thus far been vague and sketchy.
Bayavuge, 49, was arrested this week in Ottawa by Canada Border Services Agency agents. He testified Friday via video link from an Ottawa jail.
The hearing heard he tried every legal avenue to stay in Canada and when that didn’t work, he tried to convince authorities here that he’d moved to Arizona so they’d stop looking for him.
In 2010, after Bayavuge had run out of legal avenues, he began trying to apply for refugee status anew under a fake Congolese identity – complete with falsified documents.
He apparently gave the CBSA agents that fake name initially earlier this week, before admitting his true identity while under questioning. He eventually told agents that he was glad he didn’t have to hide anymore – but he didn’t want to go back to Congo.
Much of his last four years have been spent on the run: Bayavuge told agents that he’d frequently moved to avoid capture since 2007.
The married father of six made an emotional plea to be released so he could see his family, which includes three grandchildren.
The rest of his family was granted refugee status and he said he fears he’ll never see them again if deported.
“If I didn’t have kids, I’d leave Canada in a minute,” Bayavuge said.
“(But) when they tell me I don’t have a chance to come back to Canada, I don’t have a chance to see my wife, I don’t have a chance to see my kids, you don’t know what that means, you don’t know what that does to me,” he added, choking back tears.
Bayavuge lived in Montreal after arriving in Canada in 2000 via the United States.
The immigration board refused his application for refugee status in 2004, after it said it came across evidence Bayavuge worked as a member of the security services of Congo’s Kabila and Mobutu dictatorships.
A series of appeals did nothing to sway that notion.
For his part, Bayavuge counters that he was simply a civil servant – a computer technician who did nothing wrong and has never faced charges.
Members of the Congolese community in Montreal back up his claim.
“This man has never even been implicated for such crimes in Congo,” said Jean-Marie Mousenga, who had stayed in touch with Bayavuge since he went into hiding several years ago.
“Automatically, he was linked to all the crimes that were linked (to the government), yet he was just a basic citizen, a basic civil servant.”
Bayavuge vanished in April 2007 just as Canadian officials were preparing final details for his return to the Democratic Republic of Congo. After doing a risk assessment, they concluded he did not face any threats in Congo.
But Mousenga said Bayavuge’s family in Montreal fears the worst.
Human-rights advocates have criticized the federal government, accusing it of shirking its responsibilities by deporting instead of prosecuting the suspects.
Bayavuge said he has no doubt war criminals are in Canada, but he isn’t one of them. He challenged authorities to prosecute him for war crimes if they had any proof.
Four others have been arrested since CBSA released its list of 30 names – including Henry Pantoja Carbonel and Manuel De La Torre Herrera, both of Peru, who were arrested this week in Toronto.
Last Saturday, Arshad Muhammad of Pakistan was arrested in Mississauga. Last week, Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez of Honduras was picked up in Alberta.