Harkat buoyed by U.K. court ruling that six terror suspects can't be deported

posted on April 26, 2016 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: April 25, 2016

[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat's defence team hopes a recent UK decision on six terror accused will help in Harkat's fight against deportation to Algeria.]


Mohamed Harkat’s defence team will use a recent British court ruling to argue that the Algerian-born terror suspect should not be deported to the turbulent North African country.

A panel of judges from the United Kingdom’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled last week that six Algerian terror suspects cannot be deported because of the “real risk” they’ll be tortured in their native country.

The judges said the situation in Algeria is unpredictable given the threat of Islamism in the region, and the frail health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika, 79, suffered a serious stroke in April 2013 and questions remain about who’s actually running the country.

The U.K. judges said Algeria’s volatility undermined the government’s argument that “diplomatic assurances” could be relied upon to protect the six terror suspects from torture if deported.

The Algerians, who live in England under strict bail conditions, have been fighting deportation for 10 years.

In Canada, the federal government continues to pursue the deportation of Ottawa’s Harkat 14 years after he was first arrested on the strength of a national security certificate.

A feature of federal immigration law, security certificates give the government the power to remove foreign-born terror suspects based, in part, on secret evidence.

Harkat’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, said the U.K. court ruling will form part of her submission to the federal official who must now decide whether Harkat should be deported.

That official, known as a minister’s delegate, must weigh the risk that Harkat poses to Canadians against the risk that he will be tortured in Algeria.

“The U.K. judgment,” Jackman said, “appears to be solidly grounded in the framework of human rights protection obligations.”

As signatories to the UN convention against torture, Canada and the U.K. are prohibited from returning people to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture or other inhuman treatment.

The Canadian government has sought to reduce the level of risk in the Harkat case by obtaining diplomatic assurances from the Algerian government that the al-Qaida-linked terror suspect wouldn’t be mistreated.

Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said the U.K. case shows that those guarantees are not worth the paper on which they’re written. “It confirms that diplomatic assurances are not reliable — and they’re the backbone of the whole process,” she said.

Harkat intends to formally petition Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale later this year to allow him to stay in Canada. The minister has the statutory power to halt Harkat’s deportation if he finds that the action is “not contrary to the national interest.”

“This has lasted so long, we just want to put an end to this,” said Sophie Harkat. “Why do they want to go on with this process?”

Harkat, 47, has enlisted the support of dozens of high-profile Canadians, including Alexandre Trudeau, the prime minster’s brother. In a letter to Goodale, issued in Februrary, Alexandre Trudeau said he’s “absolutely convinced” that Harkat poses no danger to public safety in Canada.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government’s revised security certificate regime and affirmed a decision that found Harkat to be an active member of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The case against Harkat was built on 13 wiretapped phone conversations and at least two unnamed informants, one of whom failed a lie-detector test.

Harkat insists he will be tortured or killed if returned to Algeria, the country from which he fled in March 1990 during a military crackdown on government opponents.

Last week, Harkat underwent shoulder surgery to correct a longstanding injury that he suffered in a fall while delivering pizzas before his arrest in December 2002.

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