Taxi driver convicted of sexual assault under arrest warrant, may have fled Canada

Click to play video: 'Bassam Al-Rawi, former Halifax cab driver, found guilty of sexual assault'
Bassam Al-Rawi, former Halifax cab driver, found guilty of sexual assault
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has found a former Halifax taxi driver guilty of sexual assault. Bassam Al-Rawi sexually assaulted a woman in his apartment in December 2012 after he picked her up in his cab in downtown Halifax. Graeme Benjamin reports. – Aug 28, 2020

A former Halifax taxi driver convicted of sexual assault in 2020 is now wanted under an arrest warrant after he allegedly fled Canada — and potentially to Baghdad, Iraq.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal held an emergency hearing on May 25 after it was brought to the attention of Crown prosecutors that Bassam Al-Rawi had broken the conditions of his interim release.

His lawyer, Ian Hutchinson, had previously made a request to be removed as Al-Rawi’s counsel of record, which was allowed.

In December 2020, Al-Rawi was sentenced to two years in prison for the Dec. 15, 2012, sexual assault of a woman he picked up in downtown Halifax.

Al-Rawi was released on bail after his sentencing and was living with conditions in Germany while awaiting this appeal. The appeal was heard in June 2021 and was dismissed by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

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His defence team wanted to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, and Al-Rawi was granted interim release under conditions, which included living with his friend Fari Faisal Jeshami in Ottawa.

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The emergency hearing was held in the Court of Appeal last Wednesday, after Jeshami emailed the court’s registrar, Al-Rawi’s lawyer Hutchinson and the crown prosecutor Mark Scott, to inform them he would like to end his surety.

Justice Carole Beaton, presiding over the hearing, heard that Jeshani received an email from Al-Rawi on May 13 that said he had made arrangements to travel to Nova Scotia and turn himself in to finish off his sentence, despite the interim release. That email included a boarding pass to Halifax.

Hutchinson had confirmed that Al-Rawi had in fact not turned himself in at Springhill Institution, or any other federal corrections facility in Nova Scotia.

Mark Scott, Crown prosecutor, told the judge: “Without being able to go into any great detail at this time, based on an ongoing police investigation, it appears Mr. Al Rawi may be in Baghdad.”

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“How he got there, we don’t know. We do know he has used aliases in the past,” said Scott, noting Al-Rawi had surrendered his passport for the interim release.

Scott said police are relatively confident that he is outside of North America, after purchasing a one-way ticket via Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.

Justice Beaton concluded the crown has documentary evidence contrary to the order for interim release.

In an email to Global News, the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Office confirmed it was informed that “under the pretense of turning himself into prison authorities,” Al-Rawi had left Ottawa.

“As this matter is currently being investigated by police, we are unable to comment further on this matter,” the email read.

At the hearing, the court signed an arrest warrant for Al-Rawi.

Global News has reached out to the Halifax Regional Police who lead the investigation on the case but did not hear back in time for publication.

— with files from Rebecca Lau.

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