Harkat marks 10th anniversary of arrest on International Human Rights Day

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

by Michelle Zilio Source: iPolitics.ca URL: [link] Date: December 10, 2012 In 2002, Mohamed Harkat had many hopes for his future, including a modest home, kids and a “normal life” with his wife Sophie. He was working as a pizza delivery man and gas station cashier at the time. A decade later, Harkat is fighting to stay in Canada and avoid deportation. Ten years ago Monday, on International Human Rights Day, Harkat was arrested in Ottawa on a security certificate, a rarely-used removal instrument for non-citizens suspected of being spies or terrorists. He was jailed for 43 months followed by 3.5 years of the toughest bail and house arrest conditions in Canadian history. “Before I got arrested, we were planning to have a house, have kids, have normal life, and now it’s all up in the air,” said Harkat, an Algerian citizen who made his refugee claim in Canada in 1995. “Ten years later, I have been left in (the) dark.” While the government has suspicions of him being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, Harkat has consistently denied any links to terrorism. He is one of three men in Canada, all Muslims, who have appeared before the courts on a security certificate. Standing in the rain on Parliament Hill Monday morning, Harkat and approximately 20 supporters marked the 10th anniversary of his initial arrest. “It’s a sad day. It’s supposed to be celebrating human rights in Canada and justice for all. Ten years later, you see me fighting for something everybody has a right to — an open and fair trial,” said Harkat.

After a short demonstration on the steps of the Hill, Harkat and his family made their way into Centre Block for an emotionally-charged press conference led by Amnesty International. Politicians, human rights groups and Harkat’s family members called for the government to “drop the security certificate regime.” Under the federal security certificate law, established in 1978, the government has the power to indefinitely detain non-citizens suspected of being terrorists, use secret evidence against them and deport them to any country, regardless of whether they they could face torture. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would not comment on the Harkat case Monday. His press secretary, Julie Carmichael, said in an email the government believes security certificates are needed to protect Canadians from “dangerous foreign nationals, including terrorists,” as “it is clear that Canada is not immune from the threat of homegrown or international radical led terrorism.” NDP Public Safety Critic Randall Garrison and Green Party MP Elizabeth May beg to differ. They supported Harkat at the press conference Monday. “With the political excuse that terrorism allows us to drop all our norms, forget about human rights and that anything including torture is permissible in an era where terrorism can be whispered, I think it’s really important to stand firmly that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is non-negotiable and security certificates are offensive,” said May. ”Mohamed Harkat has put up with a great deal of uncertainty. His family has been enormously brave.” The past decade has been a roller coaster of emotions for Mohamed and his family. After five years in jail and under house arrest, Mohamed had a glimmer of hope in 2007 when the Supreme Court struck down the security certificate regime, deeming it unfair for accused individuals, and asked the government to rework the process. A year later, the government claimed to have improved the process, using lawyers as watchdogs to monitor evidence against individuals facing deportation. Mohamed was arrested again and reissued a security certificate for breaching his bail conditions – something he still says he did not do. The Harkat family experienced a sigh of relief in 2009, when it was found that one of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service informants in the case had failed a lie detector test. A few months later, the court suddenly removed some of Mohamed’s toughest bail conditions. Although his bail conditions have improved, Mohamed is still required to wear a GPS tracking bracelet on his ankle at all times, and cannot use the internet, a phone outside of his home, or leave Ottawa without permission. He said the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) still follows him regularly. “For example yesterday, the CBSA … was already parked outside of my house. See the kind of life I am living. I went to my mother in law’s to visit her yesterday and the car behind me was following me everywhere,” Mohamed told reporters Monday. “I can’t have normal life like anybody else.” The family’s hopes were crushed again in December 2010 when Federal Court Justice Simon Noël ruled that the government’s decision that Mohamed was a terrorist threat was reasonable. At Monday’s press conference, a tearful Gabrielle Brunette-Poirier, Mohamed’s 13-year-old niece, recounted the effects of the decade-long ordeal on her family. “Not many kids can say that they have gone shopping for school supplies while being followed by CBSA agents or having their uncle tied up to an extension cord just so he can charge the GPS on his ankle,” said Brunette-Poirier, as Mohamed stood behind her, wiping tears from his face. The most recent development in Mohamed’s case was welcomed by the Harkats. After the Federal Court ruled in April that some mid-1990s conversations be excluded from the evidence against Mohamed since CSIS destroyed the original tapes, both sides requested an appeal. On Nov. 22, the Supreme Court announced it would hear appeals from Mohamed and the government in 2013. “The Supreme Court accepting the case will raise the bar higher than expected,” said Mohamed. “I hope, after ten years, this is the last period of injustice. I hope it ends in good news for me.” twitter.com/michellezilio

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