Canadian gold-medalist arrested, charged with kidnapping

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Canadian gold-medalist Myriam Bédard is facing a January 5 extradition hearing from the United States, after she was arrested and charged with abducting her 12-year old daughter Maude. The Biathalon athlete is arguing she should be allowed to return to Canada on her own.

Bédard had taken her daughter to Washington D.C. with her new husband, Nima Mazhari, on October 2, violating the terms of her divorce settlement from Biathalon coach Jean Paquet. Mazhari, who is a sculptor, was charged with the unrelated theft of $100,000 worth of paintings last year.

Paquet filed a report with the Sûreté du Québec on December 8, stating that Bédard had violated the divorce terms, and an international arrest warrant was issued.

On December 20, the case was brought to the attention of Interpol, and two days later the United States Marshals Service announced her arrest in Columbia, Maryland, at a hotel celebrating Maude's 12th birthday. Maude was taken into the custody of the Marshals Service for three days, before being returned to her natural father.

Defence attorney John Pepper is arguing that the United States should be obligated to release Bédard on bail as she hasn't been formally charged with any crime, pending her extradition to Canada, where she faces two charges, child abduction and violating a custody order.

Pepper is also arguing that the three-time Olympic medalist was seeking refuge from "bureaucratic terrorism" in Canada, a claim that Bédard made in a letter she sent to the International Olympic Committee, Kofi Annan and US ambassador David Wilkins explaining why she was leaving Canada.

Bédard gave testimony during the Sponsorship scandal, where she stunned the courts by alleging that advertising firms had been engaged in narcotics trafficking, that her current husband was responsible for the decision not to send the Canadian Forces to Iraq, and that Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve had been paid $12 million to wear a Canadian flag, claims that were not verified by other sources.

Bédard is facing growing doubts about her mental state, which her attorney says are attempts to "belittle" her, due to personal grudges and her role in the scandal.