Source: Agence France Presse
Date: April 25, 2012
OTTAWA — A Canadian appeals court on Wednesday ordered a new hearing for a former Ottawa pizza delivery man declared to be a security threat with links to Al-Qaeda, effectively delaying his deportation to Algeria.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that telephone intercepts be excluded from evidence in the case of Mohamed Harkat, a 44-year-old Algerian first detained in 2002 on suspicion of links to the global terror network.
Harkat spent nearly four years in jail under a rarely-used national security measure, and has since 2006 been subject to strict bail conditions.
A lower court ruled in 2010 that Harkat was likely an Al-Qaeda sleeper agent who remained a national security threat, while Canada's immigration minister vowed to deport him.
But in Wednesday's ruling, the appeals court agreed with the argument made by defense lawyers that the Canadian spy agency's routine destruction of the original tapes amounted to a breach of process.
The case now goes back to the Federal Court to reconsider.
Defense lawyer Matthew Webber said the exclusion of transcripts of the intercepts would have a "profound effect" on the case.
"Of the public material that we saw, it's the pivotal evidence," echoed fellow legal counsel Norman Boxall at a press conference, describing the transcripts as "tattered remnants" filled with inaccuracies.
Harkat has denied terror links, and claimed he fled Algeria over a crackdown on a political party to which he belonged, the now-defunct and banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
He testified that he came to Canada as a refugee in 1995 after spending five years in Pakistan as an aid worker.
"This gives me hope to clear my name and live another day... and hope justice will prevail someday," Harkat said Wednesday.
"It's not over, but... I see the light at the end of the tunnel."
In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal also upheld disputed provisions of Canada's immigration law that allow secret court hearings and indefinite jailing of foreigners suspected of terror ties, without charge.
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