by Lucy Scholey
Date: November 9, 2014
Five men who were jailed without trial and never shown the evidence against them — it sounds like something from Soviet-era Russia, but it happened here and it’s still happening.
Filmmaker Amar Wala said he was shocked, as were many Canadians, to hear that five men men were detained in this country without due process.
In his first feature-length film, The Secret Trial 5, being screened in Ottawa next weekend, Wala tells the stories of Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohamed Harkat and Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub. Each man each spent anywhere from three to seven years in jail, plus time in strict house arrest under the country’s controversial security certificates.
The law allows the government to detain and deport non-citizens if they are considered a threat to national security.
Under that law, these five men were never charged and never saw the evidence against them, said Wala.
“A person should never be held in prison without being charged with a crime,” he said. “That’s something we believe in, very deeply, in Canada. We believe in the right to a fair trial and we’ve abandoned that principle here. So I really hope that the film makes them understand just how these things effect people, not just the men but their wives, their children, their communities, us as a country.”
Sophie Harkat, wife of former pizza deliveryman Mohamed Harkat, said they are starting to feel a sense of freedom now that her husband’s strict house arrest conditions have been relaxed. The Algerian immigrant was issued a security certificate in 2002 and spent 43 months in prison, both at the Ottawa-Carleton District Detention Centre and the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (dubbed “Guantanamo North”). After his release, he spent three and a half years under house arrest in Ottawa.
In a Supreme Court ruling, security certificates were deemed unconstitutional in 2007, but the law was amended the following year. Harkat has challenged the new law, but it was upheld in the spring. The government is now able to deport him.
Sophie Harkat said she hopes The Secret Trial 5 will shed light on his story and security certificates, in general.
“His family believes in him, we all believe in his innocence, but that’s not the important thing here,” she said. “Due process is the important thing. Due process for him, for the others and for anybody that will come after us.”
Wala raised about $50,000 through Kickstarter to fund the making of The Secret Trial 5. Now he and his fellow producers have started another campaign
to fund a cross-country tour of the film.
The Secret Trial 5 will be at the ByTowne Cinema Nov. 16-18.
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