CBC kept from Mohammed Harkat

Original author: Ayesha Adhami
Source: Socialist Worker, http://www.socialist.ca
Socialist Worker 434
URL: http://www.web.net/sworker/En/SW2004/434-08-Harkat.html
Date: September 22, 2004

For the almost two years that Mohammed Harkat has been in jail under a "Security Certificate", he has had no opportunity to defend himself legally or publicly. The mainstream press virtually ignored his case and the other "Secret Trial Five" detainees…until earlier this month, when Peter Mansbridge — host of CBC’s widely-watched The National news program — tried to get a feature interview with him. The initiative was quickly intercepted by the government.

The denial of the interview was another blow to the Justice for Mohammed Harkat campaign, which has been championing his cause since his arrest in 2002, trying to raise awareness about the situation many onlookers are now calling Canada’s Guantanemo Bay.

Christian Legeais, Campaign Manager for the group spoke with Socialist Worker’s AYESHA ADHAMI about the incident and the status of Mr. Harkat’s case.

What happened when CBC tried to set up the interview?

We were told that they could go there, but just as visitors; no camera, no notebooks — no interview. It was supposedly to protect the privacy and security of the staff.

But in terms of security, this correctional center — the Ottawa Correctional Centre — has probably the worst conditions in Ontario. If they want to improve security, they should take measures so that the conditions of detention are improved.

What did Sophie Harkat do when she found out the government was trying to block her husband’s interview?

She called the head of Corrections Canada, Bruce O’Neill, and explained that the general population was in favour of an interview; then we put out an appeal for people to write to him and ask him why he is denying this interview.

How did the community respond?

We have had numerous emails sent to us. Groups and organizations as well as unions have also spoken out.

We have asked for an independent lawyer to review the report being given to the judge by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). This person will not be able to tell us what is there; but can review and advise the judge.

While there are allegations against Mohammed Harkat, there is no charge. His fate will be decided on probability, not on fact. With security certificates, none of these people have committed any crime, but (security agencies) use them as a tool to deport. They go to a judge and say "Look, we’ve decided this person is probably a terrorist" based on profiling or whatever you want. But it’s not based on fact.

When you read the summary of the security certificate, it says that Mohammed Harkat will/was/is/will be a terrorist or a member of a terrorist organization. So it’s all based on speculation.

Well, the judge gave us a 20-page summary of the allegations, and then maybe 500-1,000 pages of all kinds of public information. At the end there are two interviews with Mohammad Harkat. It’s solely based on that.

It seems to be that the war against terror is really a war on civil rights.

Yes. But the other thing to remember is that security certificates existed before 9/11 — they are not new. They were put into the Refugee and Immigrant Protection Act and illustrate the crisis of rights in Canada. You can put someone in jail when they have not committed any crime and this is to "balance" rights. But why do they want to balance rights? They say that individuals have too many rights, so we have to limit them? It doesn’t make sense.

Right now, it’s landed immigrants and refugees — but in Bill C-36, these measures are being looked at for Canadian citizens. Currently, they can’t deport Canadian citizens, just hold people indefinitely. And this is a measure that the Canadian Government is calling "charter-proof."

Under the last parliament, there was a bill under Citizenship and Immigration to apply this law to all naturalized citizens — Canadians born outside Canada. The bill was defeated, but now they want to bring it back and introduce a hierarchy of rights — Canadians born in Canada have all the rights, naturalized have less rights, residents have less rights, conventional refugees and non-status people have no rights at all.

So, it’s creating classes of citizens — something that we have to be on the lookout for and protest widely. We wish you all the best with the campaign; could you tell us what people can do to support the campaign?

They can write to Bruce.oneill@jus.gov.on.ca to ask for the interview to be granted and also visit our website at www.justiceforharkat.com/freemohammed for information on how to support us. The main thing is to organize to oppose the security certificates and these kinds of measures.

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