by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: December 10, 2015
[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat (left), who was arrested and detained under a secret trial Security Certificate, stands with lawyer Leo Russomano during a press conference to mark the 13th anniversary of his detention and International Human Right's Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. ]
Ottawa terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has called on the Liberal government to halt his deportation and end his labyrinthine journey through the federal security certificate process.
The Algerian-born Harkat, 47, issued a public plea Thursday for clemency on the 13th anniversary of his arrest at a Vanier townhouse complex.
He subsequently spent three years in jail and another seven years under strict house arrest during a legal odyssey that twice saw his case go the Supreme Court.
This August, more than a year after the high court affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida network, the government launched deportation proceedings against him.
“I would like to start a new page and be given a chance to move on with my life,” Harkat said in an interview Thursday. “I have big hope in this government.”
Harkat said he would be imprisoned and tortured if returned to Algeria, a country from which he fled as a university student in March 1990 because of his opposition to the military government.
After five years in Pakistan — security agents allege that he made terrorist contacts during that time — Harkat flew to Canada and claimed refugee status. He came to the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service almost immediately, but was not arrested until December 2002 during the heated aftermath of 9/11.
“I’ve spent my adult life in this country,” Harkat said Thursday, “and I love this county. I love the people.”
Amnesty International has said returning Harkat to Algeria would likely expose him to “incommunicado detention,” a situation often faced by terror suspects in which they’re put at increased risk of torture through extended periods of isolation.
Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said Canada has a legal and moral obligation not to deport someone to a country where they could face torture. “During the election,” she said, “the Liberals liked to describe themselves as the party of the Charter so we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on them to hold them to that.”
What’s more, she said, it makes no sense to deport her husband when he has been living in the community for years without incident and has proven that he poses no threat.
“Let’s just save everyone a lot of time, a lot of heartache and money, and end it right now,” she argued. “We’re not asking for an apology or anything else: We’re just asking them to drop the whole procedure. We just want to lead a normal life. That’s it.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, supported Harkat in June 2006 when he first applied for bail. Alexandre Trudeau filed an affidavit and offered a cash bond in support of Harkat’s application; he also wrote, directed and produced a documentary, Secure Freedom, that highlighted the injustices of the original security certificate process.
Harkat lawyer Leo Russomanno said Thursday that he has received no indication from government officials whether they’re going to proceed with the deportation, which was initiated during the election campaign.
Deportation promises to raise difficult legal issues. A government official will first have to determine whether Harkat remains a serious threat to national security. If the minister’s delegate concludes such a risk exists, the official must then assess what kind of torture risk Harkat would face if returned to Algeria, and whether the government can rely on diplomatic assurances that he won’t be mistreated. Those two risk assessments would then be weighed against one another to arrive at a deportation decision.
The Supreme Court has ruled that terror suspects can only be deported in “exceptional circumstances” to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture.
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