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March 26, 2014 3:57 pm

Jewish Canadian Parliamentarian Says He Was Poisoned by Russia in 2006

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Canadian MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler. Photo: Irwin Cotler.

Irwin Cotler, a Jewish member of Canada’s parliament and the country’s former justice minister, said he became violently ill under strange circumstances during a 2006 visit to Russia, and learned later that his symptoms were the same as Soviet defector Alexander Litvinenko, who died from poisoning by polonium-210, according to Huffington Post Canada on Wednesday.

On Monday, Russia imposed a travel ban on him and 12 other Canadians in response to Canada and the U.S. imposing travel bans on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in the Ukraine. Cotler said he was proud to be on the Russian blacklist.

“I wear my exclusion from Russia as a badge of honor and am proud to be in such distinguished company,” Cotler said in a statement. “I have no intention of visiting Siberia. I have no investments in Sochi. I have no desire to visit Moscow and be poisoned as happened on my last trip.”

Huffington Post Canada followed up to learn the long story behind the non-lethal, though painful, poisoning, which Cotler learned was a Russian tactic that had also been tried on a Yale Law School classmate “who became a president of the European Court of Human Rights that he too was poisoned around the same time in Russia. So it didn’t appear to be coincidental.”

Cotler said that, in 2010, during the Intra-Parliamentary Conference to combat anti-Semitism, he was speaking with the Russian Embassy, in Ottawa, when he was asked, “‘Why don’t you come visit us in Russia?'”

“And I said, ‘You know, the last time when I was there, I was poisoned.’ And then, just like that, the answer was, ‘We’re sorry. That was a mistake, it won’t happen again,'” Cotler recalled in the interview.

“So I haven’t been back since then, but now I guess they made it official that I am banned from returning. But it is not the first time — I was arrested and expelled in 1979. I was banned at that time for defending political prisoners in the Soviet Union whom they accused of consorting with criminal elements in the Soviet Union and named them, like the great Andrei Sakharov, the human rights dissident.”

“Now I suspect, it has nothing to do with the Ukraine but probably because I tabled a Private Member’s Bill regarding Sergei Magnitsky.”

Magnitsky was a Moscow accountant and auditor who uncovered a corruption scheme and testified against several senior Russian officials, for which he was imprisoned and died in jail in 2009, aged 37. Cotler chairs an intra-parliamentary group on Magnitsky, and he says that is like a “red flag” to Russia.

“My sense is that’s probably the retaliatory reason in my case,” Cotler said.

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