updated 1/19/2009 10:09:30 PM ET 2009-01-20T03:09:30

William Ayers, a former U.S. radical who featured prominently in Republican efforts to thwart President-elect Barack Obama's campaign last year, has been denied entry to Canada.

The University of Toronto's Centre for Urban Schooling issued a statement Monday saying Ayers was denied entry to Canada on Sunday night because of a 1969 conviction during an anti-war demonstration. Ayers, now a professor, was to deliver a speech at the center.

Forty years ago Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in the early 1970s at the U.S. Capitol, a Pentagon restroom and New York City police headquarters.

Ayers was a fugitive for years. After he surrendered in 1980 the charges were dropped because of government misconduct, which included FBI break-ins, wiretaps and opening of mail.

'Palling around with terrorists'
Ayers became an issue in last year's presidential race after Republican claims that Obama was "palling around with terrorists," as Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin put it.

Obama had a very limited relationship with Ayers, who lived in the same Chicago neighborhood. They served together on the board of a charity, and in the mid-1990s when Obama first ran for office, Ayers hosted a meet-the-candidate session for Obama at his home.

Obama, a Democrat who will be sworn in as president Tuesday, has condemned Ayers' radical activities. There's no evidence the two ever were close friends or that Ayers advised Obama on policy. Ayers said he hardly knew Obama.

The Canadian center said it was surprised Ayers, a distinguished professor, community organizer and author, would be deemed a threat by Canadian border security.

Ayers' lawyer in Canada, Paul Copeland, said he was wasn't allowed to speak to Ayers or a border supervisor.

Has traveled to Canada in the past
Copeland said Ayers was denied entry at Toronto's island airport.

"I couldn't get anybody to talk to me and it doesn't surprise me," Copeland said.

Ayers told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that he has traveled to Canada more than a dozen times in the past.

"It seems very arbitrary," he said. "The border agent said I had a conviction for a felony from 1969. I have several arrests for misdemeanors, but not for felonies."

Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Anna Page said she couldn't comment on the case because of privacy laws.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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