12 Jul Cuban court’s “not guilty” verdict for Canadian tourist gets ‘arbitrarily’ overturned
The Canadian Press
July 11, 2018
A Quebec man who was sentenced to four years in a Cuban jail following a boating accident that killed a fellow Canadian tourist isn’t being allowed to return to Canada even though his conviction has been overturned, his wife said Wednesday.
Kahina Bensaadi says her husband Toufik Benhamiche is no longer charged with any crime, but has not been allowed to leave the country because the case is still under investigation.
Benhamiche, 47, was driving a small boat as part of a tourist excursion in July 2017 in Cayo Coco when it veered out of control and fatally struck a woman from Ontario.
A Cuban court found the Mascouche resident guilty of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced him to four years in prison.
‘Is anyone going to wake up and get him out of there?’
Now Bensaadi is calling on Canadian immigration officials to help allow her husband to return home while Cuban authorities decide whether to bring new charges.
She says she’s been offered no help so far, and accuses the Canadian government of choosing to abandon her husband rather than ruffle feathers with Cuban officials.
The MP representing Behamiche’s riding also issued a statement blasting Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for failing to resolve what he called an “appalling” situation.
“You go for a week’s vacation with your family to have fun for seven days in Cayo Coco and end up with four years in prison,” Quebec Debout MP Luc Thériault said later in a phone interview.
“Is anyone going to wake up and get him out of there?”
Bensaadi said the year-long ordeal has devastated the family both financially and emotionally.
Benhamiche has lost his engineering job near Montreal, and she has been forced to care on her own for their two daughters, aged six and eight, while trying to pay for lawyers and flying to Cuba for her husband’s court dates.
The family has also filed a lawsuit in Canada against travel company Sunwing, alleging Benhamiche was given little instruction on how to operate the craft and was assured it was easy to use and by no means dangerous.