Harkat's Lawyer To Quit Case
Date: Wed, May 12, 2004
Harkat's lawyer to quit case
Financial reasons cited for decision
THE LAWYER for an Ottawa man accused of being an al-Qaida sleeper cell agent wants off the case. Citing financial reasons, Bruce Engel, who has represented Mohamed Harkat since before his December 2002 arrest, is expected to ask the Federal Court today to be released from the case.
"The financial constraints at some point become too limiting and I think we've reached that point," Engel told the Sun last night.
Engel is the second lawyer in six months to abandon the case. Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, who joined the fight to have more evidence released to Harkat, quit in December after receiving a death threat. Although the threat was linked to another terror case, Galati decided to dump all his alleged terror cases.
While Engel noted the loss of Galati and at least one witness, he said that his getting off the case had nothing to do with threats. In fact, he said he has not received a single threat related to the Harkat case. "In order to defend this case properly, substantial resources must be available and attributable towards it," he said, adding legal aid rates wouldn't cover the costs.
Engel was scheduled to appear before a Federal Court of Appeal judge today to appeal a series of rulings last year that, Engel said, made it impossible for Harkat to respond to the allegations.
Justice Eleanor Dawson ruled last year that Harkat's lawyers couldn't have more disclosure of the evidence gathered against him but they were allowed to submit written questions about the so-called top-secret evidence.
The documents that were handed over to Engel, which include hundreds of pages of newspaper reports and U.S. trial transcripts, allege Harkat is connected to the Algerian Islamic Army Group and the Mujahedeen.
While they include some information about the CSIS investigation that spurred federal officials to sign a so-called security certificate, Engel argued that he was forced to "read between the lines" to defend his client.
Already rescheduled at least twice, Harkat's hearing was scheduled to run at the end of August. Although he has a new lawyer lined up to take the case, the hearing now will likely have to be rescheduled again.