D-day for Harkat as Supreme Court rules on security certificates

The fate of alleged al-Qaida sleeper agent Mohamed Harkat will be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday following a 12-year legal battle.

“This day’s going to change our lives, so it’s do-or-die,” said his wife, Sophie Harkat.

A former pizza delivery man, Harkat, 45, has been contesting the federal government – maintaining innocence – after being arrested outside his Ottawa home in 2002 on a national security certificate.

He’s accused of running a safe house in Pakistan when he was 19, and communicating with senior al-Qaida members.

The issue at hand in this ruling is whether security certificates, which allow non-citizens deemed security threats to be detained and deported without seeing all evidence against them, are constitutional.

Public and private hearings, excluding Harkat and his lawyers, took place last October.

If the Supreme Court decides in Harkat’s favour, “he would be a free man,” said Norm Boxall, one of Harkat’s lawyers.

“Mixed success” means there could be a new hearing, Boxall continued, while a government victory would move the process to a pre-removal risk assessment, with Harkat facing deportation to Algeria.

Harkat has said he will be tortured or killed if sent back.

Appeals have been filed by the feds and Harkat’s legal team regarding constitutionality in this case.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled the security certificate unconstitutional because it relied on secret evidence, denying a right to a fair trial.

The feds introduced special advocates in 2008 — essentially lawyers with security clearance who could attend secret hearings and partially access secret evidence.

Harkat wants to see the proof and challenge its sources.

Other concerns with the Harkat file include determining if Canadian Security Intelligence Service informants have the same protection privilege as police sources, Boxall said, as well as the destruction of evidence.

“I think it’s pretty important to note that Mr. Harkat has been in the country since 1995. He never committed a criminal offence,” said Boxall.

Harkat spent nearly four years behind bars after his arrest.

“We think the security certificate process, as it exists, violates international human rights standards with respect to fair trials, and it needs to be struck. It needs to be overturned,” said Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve.

Sophie Harkat said family and close supporters will be in court for the decision.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kellyroche6

http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/05/12/d-day-for-harkat-as-supreme-court-rules-on-security-certificates

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