by Ian McLeod
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: October 10, 2013
OTTAWA — Mohamed Harkat looks anxious, like a man with a trap door beneath his feet.
He’s seated in the living room of his modest brown-brick rowhouse on Ottawa’s southeast side. Sophie Lamarche Harkat, his wife and foremost defender, is at his side. The place is neat and tidy. The rest of their life is a mess.
Canada’s national security apparatus has had a stranglehold on Harkat since Dec. 10, 2002, when the gas station cashier was arrested here as an alleged al-Qaida “sleeper” agent.
It was international Human Rights Day. The recently married Algerian refugee claimant was hauled off to prison for 42 months under a secretive security certificate that allows federal immigration authorities to deport non-citizens deemed a threat to national security.
Then came seven years of virtual house arrest. All with no criminal charge and no trial.
After more than a decade Harkat, now 45, and his lawyers are still fighting deportation on grounds that call into question the state of fundamental justice in Canada.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court sits in open session to consider aspects of the case and whether national security secrecy trumps judicial transparency, accountability and the right to a full defence.
Both the government and Harkat are appealing a 2012 Federal Court of Appeal decision, which ruled that Harkat deserves a new Federal Court hearing to determine if he’s a threat to national security; that his right to a fair hearing was compromised by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which destroyed recordings of taped conversations from the mid-1990s; and that CSIS informants are not entitled to the blanket legal protection given to police informants to shield their identities.
On Friday, the high court is to reconvene in an extraordinary session at an ultrasecret, secure location to hear classified arguments. Harkat and his lawyers are barred from attending.
And therein lies the central issue — secrecy.
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