Mohamed Harkat speaks to reporters in the foyer of the Supreme Court of Canada on Oct. 10, 2013. Photo by Joe Lofaro.
An Algerian-born Ottawa man accused of being an Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” agent was at the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday as federal lawyers argued for the court to uphold laws that would deport terrorist suspects.
Mohamed Harkat, a former gas station attendant and pizza deliveryman, was arrested in 2002 under a security certificate. The tool gives Canada permission to deport foreigners without charging them on the basis of national security.
He was placed on house arrest after spending 43 months in prison. It was only this past July the Ottawa man was permitted to remove his GPS tracking bracelet from his ankle.
On Thursday he was appealing for the second time the constitutionality of the security certificate provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
“I hope for the best and I’m still optimistic what’s going on so far,” said Harkat in the court foyer during a break in the hearing.
In his argument to Canada’s highest court, federal lawyer Robert Frater called for government informants to be kept under a veil of secrecy, otherwise “the informants will close up like a clam.” Federal lawyer Urszula Kaczmarczyk also argued for those named in a security certificate to only receive a summary of the case against them, without divulging sensitive intelligence information.
But what defence counsel is left with is a summary of “bald” allegations, argued Harkat’s lawyer, Norm Boxall.
“You must have information and other evidence and it’s not just being told the allegation,” said Boxall. “For example, there’s an allegation that he went to Afghanistan. When? Where? How? Why?”
Matthew Webber, Harkat’s other lawyer, also asked for an exclusion of the original Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) wiretaps used in building a case against Harkat, which were destroyed in 2009. The destruction of that evidence is “prejudicial” to his client, said Webber.
Outside the courtroom the foyer was bustling with supporters who came to observe the rare proceeding. Harkat also had the support of his wife, Sophie, during the hearing.
“I’m hoping one day I’m going to clear my name,” Harkat told reporters. “I’m telling the Canadian people and the world I’m not part of bin Laden, what they’re saying. It will prove itself.”
The hearing will continue Friday behind closed doors.
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