PHOTOS: Harkat Bail review Hearing, June 11, 2013

posted on June 17, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Thanks to Ottawa Fro for taking these photos of Moe and some of his supporters outside the court room, at Moe's bail review. June 11, 2013.

June 11, 2013, Ottawa
Click on image to see more photos

Mohamed Harkat asks court to scrap GPS ankle bracelet

posted on June 11, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

By Doug Hempstead
Source: The Ottawa Sun
URL: [link]
Date: June 11, 2013

OTTAWA — Just the thought of not having to lie on a bed for two hours each day to recharge his GPS tracking ankle bracelet was enough to make Mohamed Harkat smile Tuesday.

The Algerian citizen, suspected of having ties to terrorism, has worn one for seven years.

Now a Federal Court judge is considering Harkat's plea to have it removed after a lengthy submission by his lawyer, Matthew Webber.

Harkat, 44, arrived in Canada in 1995 and was granted refugee status in 1998.

He was arrested outside his Ottawa home on Dec. 10, 2002, and accused of operating a safe house for Islamic extremists in Pakistan when he was 19 and having associations with terrorist groups.

He was jailed for 3 1/2 years — including one year in solitary confinement — and released on bail June 21, 2006.

The government issued a security certificate against him and served him with a notice of deportation in 2011.

If Harkat were allowed to use a computer, he'd be willing to allow Canada Border Services Agency or CSIS access to the device remotely or in-person to monitor his e-mails and the websites he visits, Webber said.

The GPS is the major issue. Webber said the stress of wearing the bracelet has taken a psychological and physical toll on Harkat.

Judge Simon Noel said there are "bound to be consequences when a person is subjected to the certificate procedure," but later suggested Harkat could perhaps wear some sort of watch-like device instead.

It's not known how long Noel will take to make a decision on the restrictions.

Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.

Accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat back in court

posted on June 11, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Ottawa Citizen and The Canadian Press
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: June 11, 2013

OTTAWA - Mohamed Harkat returns to Federal Court Tuesday seeking complete removal or a relaxation of conditions on his release from detention under a Security Certificate.

Leading up to Tuesday’s hearing, the federal government said it will allow the Ottawa man accused of terrorist ties to have a mobile phone but it balked at the idea of giving Harkat access to the Internet or removing his electronic tracking bracelet.

In documents filed with the Federal Court, the government also said it is open to dropping a requirement that Harkat get prior approval before travelling out of town.

The concessions would ease current release conditions for Harkat, but fall short of the full list of freedoms he is seeking during Tuesday’s one-day Federal Court hearing.

It has been more than a decade since Harkat, a refugee from Algeria, was arrested under a national security certificate on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent. He has essentially been living under house arrest with stringent conditions for seven years.

Harkat, 44, lives at home in Ottawa with wife Sophie, but wears an electronic GPS bracelet on his ankle, must check in with authorities regularly and cannot leave the capital area without permission. He is denied access to a mobile phone or a computer with Internet connectivity.

“I feel dehumanized and degraded on a daily basis,” Harkat says in an affidavit in support of his request for less onerous conditions. “The GPS ankle bracelet I am required to wear is a constant reminder of this.”

Harkat denies any involvement in terrorist activities. He says his decade-long ordeal has taken a toll, and that he’s been treated by a psychiatrist for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia for the last three years.

“I feel that much of my psychological difficulties are a result of the extremely restrictive conditions under which I live,” he says in the affidavit.

Harkat’s psychiatrist, Dr. Colin Cameron, says his patient takes four medications — two of which have had to be increased a number of times over the last three years — to manage his “significant depressive, post-traumatic stress and anxiety symptoms.”

In a brief to the court, Harkat’s lawyers call the current release conditions “harsh and excessive.”

Harkat argues his current lack of access to the Internet prevents him from emailing family members, the Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee, legal counsel or even the Canada Border Services Agency, which monitors his daily movements and approves or denies travel requests.

In addition, he says, he “feels uneasy” about not having a mobile phone in the event of an emergency when away from home — noting his wife suffers from diabetes and his nephew has allergies that require him to carry an epi-pen.

In its court submission, the government says the conditions imposed on Harkat — including GPS monitoring and the prohibition on Internet access — are proportional to the danger.

“The threat posed by Mr. Harkat relates directly to his ability to meet and communicate with persons associated with terrorism,” says the brief. “The conditions were imposed in order for the Court to be reassured that Mr. Harkat would not maintain or undertake such contacts.”

Harkat argues he has done everything expected of him to date.

“I have not breached any of my conditions since they were reviewed in September 2009. Compliance with the conditions is the predominant focus of my daily activities. I am very serious about respecting my conditions of release and clearing my name.”

The border services agency notes “erratic and unusual driving” by Harkat that may be “indicative of a wilful attempt to hinder (border agency) surveillance operations,” but agrees that there have been “no breaches of the terms and conditions” imposed on him since the last review.

However, federal lawyers say the lack of any breaches “is an indication that the conditions are working effectively, and are serving to mitigate the risk posed by Mr. Harkat.”

Security certificates have been used since 1991 to deport non-citizens accused of being terrorists or spies. The person named in a certificate receives only a summary of the case against them, which critics say makes for a mockery of fundamental justice.

Harkat’s case has been bound up in legal proceedings since the former pizza delivery man’s arrest on Dec. 10, 2002.

In October, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a challenge of the security certificate system brought by Harkat and his lawyers.

(c) The Ottawa Citizen

Future top Mountie Paulson declared security certificate process 'off the rails'

posted on June 04, 2013 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Jim Bronskill (CP)
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: June 2, 2013

OTTAWA - On his way to becoming Canada's top cop, Bob Paulson told internal reviewers the national security certificate process for detaining suspected terrorists was "completely off the rails," newly released documents show.

In an interview with an auditor examining the controversial program, Paulson, now RCMP commissioner, expressed concerns about excessive state secrecy in certificate proceedings.

The national security certificate is a seldom-used tool for removing non-citizens suspected of terrorism or espionage from Canada.

"In my view, we over claim the protection of sources and methods and this is convenient if you can get away with it," say notes from the October 2009 interview, recently released under the Access to Information Act.

Paulson was assistant RCMP commissioner for national security at the time of the interview. Two years later, he was picked by the Harper government to become commissioner.

The discussion was part of a 2009-10 federal evaluation of the "relevance and performance" of the security certificate initiative, which had been revamped in 2008 after elements were found to be unconstitutional.

Despite the changes, civil libertarians have persistently criticized the national security certificate because the person named sees only a bare-bones summary of the case against them.

Opponents say federal authorities should criminally charge someone who is believed to be involved in terrorism, not try to deport them based on evidence put forward behind closed doors.

"The security certificate is an odd beast as it has come to be understood," Paulson told the interviewer. "If we had the threshold belief that we could take criminal action, we would do so."

When the review took place, four certificates had been on the books for several years, all against Muslim men accused of terrorist ties.

The government had withdrawn one certificate just a month earlier, in September 2009, in order to avoid sensitive intelligence being presented in court. Another certificate would be tossed out by the courts in early 2010.

Currently, three people arrested under security certificates — Mohamed Harkat of Algeria, and Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, both from Egypt — are out on bail under strict surveillance as their cases slowly grind through the courts.

"If we were careful about how we brought the (security certificates) to bear upon these people it may have worked better," Paulson said in the interview. "As it is being applied now the (security certificate) is completely off the rails."

Paulson decried what he saw as a failure to make certificate detainees reasonably apprised of the case against them.

"Instead we are going to make the subject 'work' for the information. 'Take our word for it' approach," say the notes.

The internal records were obtained under the federal access law by Mike Larsen, a criminology instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, who provided a copy to The Canadian Press.

In perhaps the most significant extremism case since Paulson took over, two non-citizens were charged in April under the Anti-Terrorism Act — not arrested using security certificates — for allegedly plotting to derail a passenger train.

Paulson's comments were "very forthright" and "refreshing" in suggesting the security certificate program was dysfunctional, Larsen said. "It seems that he feels that transparency and accountability have not been fully respected in the certificate proceedings."

In the 2009 interview, Paulson also took a swipe at the interdepartmental process for sharing input on the security certificate system.

"I would assess the co-ordination as being characteristic of typical departments involved in security. Siloed and self-interested," say the notes.

"Typically these interdepartmental initiatives are absent of leadership and decision-making ability. It usually turns on the goodwill of the participants rather than the co-operation delivered by leadership."

Portions of the two-page interview summary — including Paulson's recommendations for improving federal policy-making on the certificate program — were deemed too sensitive to disclose.

The RCMP has no additional comment, said Sgt. Greg Cox, a force spokesman.

The government revamped the certificate process after the Supreme Court of Canada declared it unconstitutional in 2007. A key change was the addition of special advocates — lawyers who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person facing deportation.

However, the special advocates do their work behind closed doors due to the sensitive nature of the classified information before the court in such cases.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to revisit the question of just how open the process should be in response to a challenge brought by Harkat.

© 2010 - 2013 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

Harkat optimistic about appeal

posted on January 25, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Noman Bajwah
Source: Muslim Link
URL: [link]
Date: January 22, 2013

Ten years after his arrest, security certificate detainee Mohamed Harkat has something to look forward to.

Mr. Harkat’s case will become the first to test the constitutionality of Canada’s revised security certificate law as it moves to a hearing before the Supreme Court.

On November 22, the Supreme Court of Canada declared it would hear appeals from the Algerian-born Ottawa resident and the government, most likely in the fall of 2013.

“I’m confident,” Mr. Harkat replied when asked how he felt about the outcome of the appeals. “I have big hopes in the Supreme Court,” he stated.

His wife is similarly optimistic. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to go through two certificates and the federal court of appeal, but for me – the ultimate justice comes in the hands of the highest court,” Sophie Harkat told reporters.

Mr. Harkat’s attorneys have long stated that the government’s use of the security certificate process is profoundly unfair because Harkat still doesn’t know the exact detail of the allegations against him.

In April 2012, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificates, but also ordered Federal Court Justice Simon Noel to reconsider his conclusion that Mr. Harkat’s continuing presence in Canada was a security threat.

The provision that is most attacked by Mr. Harkat and his supporters is the “special advocates” clause, which allows individuals aligned with the government to be privy to secret government evidence. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in April that the use of such advocates is constitutional.

These “special advocates” are government appointed agents who must consult with the same judge who upheld the certificate to talk to the detainee. “Special advocates” are supposed to be security-cleared lawyers who are allowed to attend closed hearings where they can hear government evidence and ostensibly protect the rights of the accused.

However, a key component of the “special advocates” role is that they are forbidden from communicating with the detainees or their ordinary legal counsel about the confidential information that is divulged to them in secrecy.

Mr. Harkat was arrested outside his Ottawa home on Dec. 10, 2002 for allegedly operating a safe house for extremists in Pakistan. He was 19 years old at the time. His ten year ordeal has been marked by 43 months of imprisonment followed by three and a half years of the harshest bail and house arrest conditions imposed in Canadian history.

His family put up $100,000 to guarantee his release condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device at all times, remain under 24-hour supervision (even while at home). He also had to inform authorities 48 hours in advance if he planned on leaving his home and had to submit the names of people he planned on seeing.

Those bail conditions were eased in September 2009. Two years later, the government issued a security certificate against him and served him with a notice of deportation.

Even now, Mr. Harkat cannot use the internet, cannot use a telephone outside the house and must receive special permission to leave Ottawa. Mrs. Harkat says officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency are constantly parked outside their home.

Copyright © 2013 Eye Media Solutions Inc. All rights reserved.

Harkat recounts his turbulent decade under terrorist storm cloud

posted on January 17, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2012

[PHOTO: Sophie and Mohamed Harkat are marking the tenth anniversary of his initial arrest, on Dec. 10, 2002.]

OTTAWA — Ten years ago, on Dec. 10, 2002, Mohamed Harkat had a few errands to run before starting his 3 p.m. shift as a Petro-Canada gas station cashier.

First, he had to throw out the garbage at his Vanier townhouse complex, then he had to drop off an application to renew his work permit at a federal immigration office. He was hoping to find work as a short-haul truck driver.

After depositing his trash, however, Harkat was stopped in his tracks by a team of border agents and police officers.

One of the agents put his hand on Harkat’s arm and showed him a picture. Harkat stared into his own face.

“You are Mohamed Harkat?” the agent demanded.

“Yes,” Harkat said.

Harkat had been living in Ottawa for seven years, ever since making a refugee claim in 1995. But his English was still a work in progress. He didn’t understand everything the agent then told him; he knew only that he was under arrest.

“In my head, a thousand questions came to my brain,” remembers Harkat of the moment that would mark the start of his 10-year legal odyssey.

“But I never, ever thought I’d be arrested: there is no reason. There’s nothing I did wrong.”
With his case now before the Supreme Court of Canada, the question of whether Harkat did anything wrong remains unanswered one decade after his arrest.

For all that time, Harkat has lived with the accusation that he participated in the worst possible crime: terrorism. Yet Harkat was not being charged as a criminal. He would not face a trial governed by conventional rules.

As a foreign-born refugee, he had been arrested on a federal security certificate, a powerful and rarely used instrument of Canada’s immigration law. It gave the federal government the power to detain Harkat indefinitely; to use secret evidence to brand him a terrorist; and to send him back to a country where he could be tortured.

The law was created in 1978 to swiftly deport those the government suspected of being involved in terrorism, but against whom there was insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.

Since 9/11, however, the security certificate process has proved anything but swift. Three accused terrorists, including Harkat, have been before the courts for more than a decade.

Indeed, Harkat remains the subject of a legal process that will not be resolved for at least another year, and likely longer.

What cannot be debated, however, is the strangeness of Harkat’s decade. He has spent three and a half years in jail, including one full year in solitary confinement. He has lived under the strictest house arrest ever imposed in Canada. He has twice been declared a terrorist by Federal Court judges only to have those decisions overturned by higher courts. His face has become so well known that people recognize him on the street and in the grocery store.

In an exclusive interview to mark the anniversary of his arrest, Harkat relived the peaks and troughs of his turbulent decade.

In the days that followed his arrest, Harkat was convinced he would be released. But days turned into weeks and weeks into months as lawyers and judges grappled with a security certificate process little defined by case law.

For Harkat, the wait was painful since he was being treated by the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre as its most dangerous inmate. He spent one full year in solitary confinement.

“The first year in the cell alone, it was a nightmare,” he says. “I was crying most of the time. I had no ideas what was going on in the world.”

In solitary, Harkat had no access to newspapers or television and his visits were strictly limited. He spent 20 minutes a day in the exercise yard in handcuffs and chains.

Other prisoners were sent to solitary — “the hole” — as a punishment for fighting or rule infractions. They would often express their frustration by banging on cell doors.

“They won’t let you sleep: they bang the doors all night,” Harkat says. “They don’t give a damn who’s living beside them. They drive people crazy there.”

Forty-three months after he was first jailed, Harkat was flown to Ottawa on a government jet after being released from a Kingston prison built for security certificate detainees.

It was June 21, 2006. Harkat was about to be released on the strictest set of bail conditions ever seen in Canada. The conditions required that he never be home alone; that he wear an electronic tracking bracelet and be accompanied by a surety whenever he left the house.

In addition, Harkat had to agree to have his mail searched, his phone tapped and be followed by border agents anytime he left the house.

None of that mattered, though, when he arrived at the door of his Ottawa home. Walking through the front door, he says, was the best moment since his arrest.

“The air smells different, it even feels different,” he says. “You appreciate the things around you when it’s gone for awhile.”

Harkat, his wife and extended family celebrated with a halal roast beef dinner.

Months later, in February 2007, they had reason to celebrate again when the Supreme Court ruled the country’s security certificate regime was unconstitutional. The court found the secretive process denied defendants the fundamental right to meet the case against them, and ordered the government to rewrite it.

Harkat felt vindicated: he had been telling anyone who would listen the same thing for more than four years.

“The Supreme Court said the system doesn’t work. That’s what I was waiting for,” he says. “That was a good day. It gave us hope.”

The high court decision overturned a Federal Court judge’s finding — based largely on secret evidence — that Harkat was a terrorist.

Mohamed Harkat was in the shower when Canadian border agents came to arrest him for a second time. An agent walked into the bathroom on Jan. 29, 2008 and hauled him out of the shower.

“He gave me a towel and said, ‘Get dressed,’” Harkat remembers. “I thought, ‘What is going on?’”

The agent accused Harkat of violating his bail, which required him to live with his wife, Sophie, and mother-in-law, Pierrette Brunette.

A sad, strange story would later emerge in court. Brunette, it turned out, had split with her former partner, Alois Weidemann, in whose Heron Gate home the Harkats lived. The failed romance poisoned the home and left Weidemann with the Harkats as unwelcome tenants.

Harkat, who was released from jail after four days, felt the arrest was particularly unfair since he had been so careful to abide by his bail conditions. “We were following every single order,” he says.

Border agents would again appear at Harkat’s door little more than one year later, in May 2009.

The Canada Border Services Agency had been given the right to conduct unannounced searches of the home as part of Harkat’s bail order. Sixteen agents and police officers with three dog teams swept the house for six hours. They left with 12 boxes of material, including a home computer and a family photo album.

A judge later ruled the search was an intelligence-gathering exercise that breached the Harkats’ privacy rights.

“I was like a dog on a chain and they could pull my chain anytime they wanted,” Harkat says. “They could walk in anytime they wanted; that was what we lived with.”

By the middle of 2009, almost seven years after his arrest, Mohamed Harkat thought he could see light through the storm.

The government’s case against him was in trouble. It had just been revealed that a key CSIS informant in the case had failed a lie-detector test — a fact not previously disclosed to the court.

For Harkat, the finding went to the heart of the problem with security certificates. He believes the process affords dubious informants too much protection.

In his case, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) informants testified only in secret, and even then were not subject to cross-examination by Harkat’s lawyers.

“I’m thinking the informant is scared from 9/11 — and they (CSIS) showered him with lots of money,” says Harkat.

Then, in September 2009, the court unexpectedly lifted the most difficult terms of Harkat’s bail. It meant he could stay home alone and go outside without a surety as long as he wore his tracking bracelet.

CSIS even downgraded the threat posed by Harkat. In a report to the court, it described him as a someone who played a mostly logistical role for international jihadists and did not engage in violent acts.

At the time, Harkat firmly believed his legal odyssey was coming to end.

The Harkats began to plan for their future. They talked about starting a family; Mohamed Harkat decided to go to college to pursue accreditation as an electrician or plumber.

That’s how confident they were that Federal Court Justice Simon Noël would quash the security certificate.

The cases against two other security certificate detainees had already crumbled and the Harkats were certain that theirs would be next.

They could not have been more wrong. In December 2010, Noël ruled that the government had made a reasonable decision in concluding that Harkat was a terrorist threat to national security.

Noël dismissed Harkat’s testimony as simplistic, dishonest and misleading, and upheld almost all of the government’s allegations against him.

The Harkats heard the news in their lawyer’s office. “It felt like someone put a nail in my heart,” says Harkat, who regards it as one of the worst days of his epic decade.

The Supreme Court will consider the Harkat case next year as it examines the constitutionality of the federal government’s security certificate regime.

Among other things, Harkat will argue that the current regime puts too much emphasis on secret evidence and affords too much protection to CSIS informants.

He points to the case of Mubin Shaikh, a CSIS and RCMP informant, who testified publicly against members of a terrorist cell, known as the Toronto 18, and continues to live in the city without incident.

“Why can’t the same thing happen in my case? Why should it be so different?” asks Harkat, who continues to press his demand for a fair and open trial.

“I still have hope in the system,” he says.

Harkat’s wife, Sophie, says the fight to clear her husband’s name has become intensely personal. During the past decade, she has become a lighting rod for critics who accuse her of wilful blindness. Some have insisted hers is a marriage of convenience.

“I’ve got nothing to win by staying in this relationship: there’s nothing convenient about it,” she says. “If I wanted to go 10 years ago, I could have left 10 years ago.

“But I believe in his innocence and I believe in due process. People should stop attacking me. I’m just fighting for human rights here.”

Still, she admits to being worn down by the decade and the fight that still looms.

“In 10 years, other people move on, other people graduate, other people have kids. We don’t.”

© Copyright The Ottawa Citizen 2012

Doc Ignite! Help Us Complete The Secret Trial 5!

posted on January 15, 2013 | in Category Misc | PermaLink

Click on the image below to watch the video at

promo for the film project The Secret Trial 5

VIDEO: Ottawa Sun Interview with Mohamed and Sophie (Nov, 2012)

posted on December 15, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Doug Hempstead
Source: The Ottawa Sun
URL: [link]
Date: November 22, 2012

Mohamed and Sophie at home, Nov 2012

Source: OTTAWA SUN: Mohamed Harkat gets shot to clear himself at Supreme Court

Les 10 ans d'enfer de Mohamed Harkat

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

par Philippe Orfali
Source: La Presse
Date: 11 décembre 2012

[PHOTO: Hier marquaient les dix ans de l'arrestation de Mohamed Harkat, devant son appartement d'Ottawa.]

Le 10 décembre 2002, tout basculait pour Mohamed Harkat, son épouse Sophie et leurs proches. Alors qu'il sortait faire des emplettes, l'homme d'origine algérienne à la vie en apparence rangée était arrêté. Son crime allégué, le pire de tous: terrorisme.

Pour quelles raisons, et surtout, en se basant sur quelles preuves? Impossible de le savoir. Arrêté en vertu d'un certificat de sécurité, celui qui avait obtenu en 1998 le statut de réfugié n'aura pas accès à l'ensemble des preuves que détient le gouvernement contre lui.

« Ça viole à peu près tous les principes du droit. Chacun a droit de savoir ce qu'on lui reproche. Or, ce n'est pas le cas avec ceux qui font l'objet d'un certificat de sécurité», a souligné hier Elizabeth May, la chef du Parti vert.

Hier marquaient les dix ans de l'arrestation de Mohamed Harkat, devant son appartement d'Ottawa. Dix années, dont près de quatre passées derrière les barreaux, certaines passées en incarcération solitaire.

Comble de l'ironie, cette date coïncide avec la Journée internationale des droits de la personne.

« Ce pays ne représente plus les valeurs humaines avec lesquelles j'ai été élevée, laisse tomber Pierrette Brunette, la belle-mère de Mohamed Harkat. La vie de ma famille a été, est et sera à jamais perturbée par toutes les conditions de vie de mon gendre. Ce sont des facteurs difficiles à supporter, même après tout ce temps-là.»

© La Presse, ltée. Tous droits réservés.

Canada's secret trials, immigration policy under fire on Human Rights Day

posted on December 11, 2012 | in Category Canada's Immigration Policy | PermaLink

by David P. Ball
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2012

Organizers in at least eight cities across the country are rallying support for Canadian Muslims rounded up in the so-called War on Terror -- particularly the ongoing punishment without trial of three men under security certificates.

The events, which kicked off last night with a candlelight vigil in Vancouver, include what is billed as a "family-friendly noise demonstration" in front of Montreal's Laval Immigration Prevention Centre today, as well as events in Toronto, Calgary, Saskatoon, Ottawa, and Halifax.

The actions coincide with the unveiling, 64 years ago, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 -- a document frequently cited by the Canadian government as it criticizes other regimes' behaviour around the world, such as Iran or Syria.

But Dec. 10 is not only International Human Rights Day. It is also the day that Mohamed Harkat was arrested on alleged terrorism-related charges ten years ago, when he was imprisoned for nearly four years, one of which in solitary confinement.

Last week, fellow security certificate detainee Mohammed Mahjoub -- who heads to court tomorrow (Dec. 11) for a review of his security certificate conditions -- demanded an independent inquiry into abuses under Canada's secret trials regime.

"I am a political prisoner here in Canada," Mahjoub said in a statement. "My case is political; it is not a legal one."

"Never in these twelve years have I been charged with any crime. Never has the secret information used to destroy my reputation been disclosed to me. Never have I been given the dignity of a fair and open trial... My hands are far, far cleaner than the hands of the Canadian and Egyptian officials involved in my case. I have never terrorized any person in my life. Today I am calling for an independent inquiry into my case, aimed at holding the individuals, agencies and structures responsible for all these abuses accountable for their actions."

Mahjoub was locked in jail for eight years following his arrest in 2000, nearly three of which he was in solidarity confinement, until his subsequent house arrest for four-and-a-half years that continues today. Canada also maintains certificates for Harkat and Mahmoud Jaballah.

The protests also draw attention to the federal government's new immigration and refugee crackdown, which kicks into effect on Dec. 15 -- allowing for automatic, indefinite detention of so-called "irregular" asylum-seekers, making deportations to certain countries easier, and reducing appeal rights.

"We deliberately wanted to put security certificates back in the context of immigration issues," Mary Foster, with the Justice for Mahjoub Network, told "It is important to address the issue of immigration detention because thousands of people are being detained every year, without any charge, trial and for indefinite periods -- in the cases of security certificate detainees, for more than a decade."

"In other words, the liberty of immigrants is being treated as worthless, and with a great deal less respect than that of many other people in the country -- it is a complete violation of the principle of equality. It is important to understand the role that security certificates play in justifying immigration detention. By playing up the idea that immigrants are dangerous, and need to be controlled for public safety, the government is able to gain support for their anti-immigrant policies, and silence outcry against injustices towards immigrants."

In Vancouver, a small circle gathered in the darkness with candles outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, reading poetry, singing and speaking about post-9/11 racial profiling and Islamophobia in Canada.

"We're against security certificates as a form of racial profiling," vigil organizer Imtiaz Popat, with the group Siraat, told "Although the security certificates existed before 9/11, they have been used against Muslims specifically."

"The State -- whether it be the United States, Canada or any state -- is using the War on Terror as an excuse to take away our human rights. It's not just Muslims -- all our civil liberties are being taken away in the name of the War on Terror. These are excuses to take away our rights."

Also attending the rally was José Figueroa, a Salvadoran refugee to Vancouver who has faced deportation for several years, and continues to fight for his and other refugee rights through the We Are All José campaign.

"We are here to support this vigil for people suffering the injustices here in Canada,” he told "This was called to support refugees and immigrants facing bogus allegations of terrorism.

"Myself, I'm here to fight for the rights of my family, who are Canadians. We need to unite the community on these issues."

Figueroa said that the use of secret evidence against people issued security certificates is particularly troubling, and represents a significant abuse of human rights.

"That's the main problem: the secret evidence that is being used," he added. "Nobody knows what it is. What kind of information does the Canadian government have? They need to be more specific, and be open with the Canadian people."

According to a top lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who spoke in Vancouver several months ago, the very notion of a "global war on terror" is at the root of what critics see as abuses of civil liberties and human rights.

"The global war against terrorism [is] a very dangerous idea," ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said. "It's a dangerous proposition that we are involved in this war that has no temporal boundary, no geographic boundary, and is really against an enemy that is really difficult to identify.

"To say that we're in a global war against terrorism or a global war against Al-Qaeda is really to propose something quite drastic and radical – it's to propose that we're in a forever-war and in a everywhere-war."

Canada's little-known secret trials program is one outcome of this battle, whose battlefield is more and more undefined. But the certificates' personal impact on the 28 individuals they have targeted is devastating, Popat said.

"It's a travesty of human rights how they've been treated, and many others have been treated," the Siraat spokesperson argued, pointing to current Egyptian protests against the new constitution as an example of Western government's "hypocrisy."

"When [Egyptian president] Mohamed Morsi gives himself these so-called powers, they scream foul," Popat added. "Yet, when the United States and Canada do the same thing and take away our civil liberties, that's fine -- that's okay. There's double standards there."

"There are many contradictions that not just this government, but other Canadian governments, have had in terms of human rights violations -- starting with the treatment of Aboriginal people here in this country."

For ACLU's Jaffer, any curtailment of enshrined legal rights affects everyone, not only the minority groups singled out, such as Muslims -- and human rights must be vigorously defended.

"I wasn't around during the McCarthy era, but there are certainly at least loose parallels to what happened then... Once you accept the notion that we're at war all over world, it's very easy to accept the idea we can detain people picked up anywhere in the world -- detained militarily without charge or trial, indefinitely -- until the war is over."

Protecting and increasing human rights -- whether in Canada or abroad -- is an important task, Popat concludes. And it is important to fight not only for civil liberties, but Aboriginal rights, housing, an end to poverty, and other rights enshrined in the UN declaration -- even if they are rarely upheld.

"Human rights are a lofty goal," admits Popat. "But they're a threshold."

"The UN Declaration of Human Rights is a good document. It's not perfect, but the fact is, we don't have human rights; they are something we strive for."

David P. Ball is a writer and photojournalist in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish land. You can read interviews and more of his work at the Left Coast Post blog on His website is . On Twitter: @davidpball

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