More than six years after his arrest as an alleged al-Qaeda sleeper agent, Adil Charkaoui snipped off a GPS monitoring bracelet and left Federal Court a free man on Thursday after a judge said she intends to halt proceedings to have him deported. Although federal Justice Department lawyers maintain that Mr. Charkaoui remains a threat, they chose to withdraw much of the evidence against him rather than follow a court order to disclose information gathered from wiretaps, confidential sources and foreign intelligence serves. Under the security-certificate procedure used against Mr. Charkaoui, the government is allowed to file evidence seen only by the judge and court-appointed advocates representing the suspect. Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer decided last spring that much of the secret evidence against Mr. Charkaoui could be disclosed publicly without harming national security. On Thursday, she ruled that with that evidence withdrawn by government lawyers, the security certificate cannot be justified, and she ordered the immediate lifting of all conditions covering Mr. Charkaoui's release on bail. She said the certificate will inevitably fall following a closed-door hearing next week with the government's lawyers.The decision was greeted with cheers from Mr. Charkaoui's supporters in the courtroom. "I have been waiting for this day for six-and-a-half years," said Mr. Charkaoui, who arrived in Canada in 1995 but has been denied citizenship. "Two years of prison, four-and-a-half years with a [GPS] bracelet, a lot of hardship, a lot of suffering, an incredible attack on my reputation, lies shared with foreign [intelligence] agencies. ... I tell you today I feel really relieved." In addition to being constantly monitored by authorities through the GPS bracelet, Mr. Charkaoui had surrendered his passport, posted $50,000 bail and been ordered to avoid contact with previous acquaintances suspected of links to terrorism. He was also ordered not to possess a weapon and to allow Canadian Border Security agents to search the contents of his home computer. The case is not completely closed, however, because the government wants to appeal Judge Tremblay-Lamer's order to disclose the secret evidence. If the appeal succeeds, federal ministers could issue another security certificate seeking to have Mr. Charkaoui, 36, returned to his native Morocco. In order for the appeal to go ahead, Judge Tremblay-Lamer must agree that it raises "serious questions" of law that go beyond the specific case of Mr. Charkaoui. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service on Thursday rejected claims by Mr. Charkaoui and his lawyers that evidence had been withdrawn because it was unreliable. "CSIS stands by the accuracy and reliability of its information submitted in the security certificate issued against Adil Charkaoui," Manon Bérubé, a spokeswoman for the service, said in an emailed statement. Disclosing the information as ordered by Judge Tremblay-Lamer would have seriously harmed intelligence-gathering efforts and endangered sources, she said: "Among the most important elements of security intelligence collection is human sources. It is imperative that CSIS protect its sources and guarantee their anonymity. Otherwise, very few individuals would be willing to co-operate with CSIS. "Furthermore, CSIS cannot protect the safety and security of Canadians effectively if the subjects of its investigations are aware of its methods of operation. It is imperative that a security intelligence service protect its methodologies and investigative techniques." In a court filing this month, federal lawyers acknowledged that the truncated evidence did not meet the burden of proof required to enforce the security certificate. But they argued that Judge Tremblay-Lamer had "minimized" national security considerations in favour of informing Mr. Charkaoui as fully as possible of the case against him. The rarely used security certificates fall under federal immigration law and can be used only against non-citizens deemed to pose a serious threat to Canada. While CSIS initiates the process when it becomes aware of potential threats, the decision to issue a certificate lies with the federal ministers of Immigration and of Public Security. It is then up to the Federal Court to determine if the certificate is justified. The most recent public summary of the case against Mr. Charkaoui gives an indication of how much evidence was withdrawn from the file. The government still maintains that he is, or was, a member of al-Qaeda, that he trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that he frequented known Islamist extremists. It says Mr. Charkaoui's presence at al-Qaeda training camps in 1998 was corroborated by Ahmed Ressam, the former Montreal resident convicted of attempting to bomb Los Angeles airport, and Noureddine Nafia, the former head of the GICM, a Moroccan Islamist terror group. But material directly attributed to Mr. Charkaoui - for example his alleged account of what went on in mujahedeen training camps and his alleged declarations in favour of jihad, or holy war - have been crossed out. Also removed is the reference to a June, 2000, conversation in which Mr. Charkaoui was alleged to have discussed seizing control of a commercial airliner "for aggressive purposes." Mr. Charkaoui said on Thursday that he wants an apology from the federal government to clear his name and he has not ruled out a lawsuit to compensate for the hardship he suffered. Johanne Doyon, his lawyer, said the entire procedure against Mr. Charkaoui was abusive and based on flimsy evidence. "When you attack and stigmatize someone, you need to have serious, reliable, verified evidence," she said. "If not, it becomes a regime of unfounded claims, which is unacceptable in our society." Thursday's decision continues a string of judicial setbacks for the federal government in its effort to remove Mr. Charkaoui from Canada. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mr. Charkaoui's charter rights were being violated and Ottawa was forced to redraft its security-certificate legislation. The following year he won another victory in the Supreme Court, which ordered CSIS to stop destroying tapes and notes from terror investigations. National Post ghamilton AT nationalpost.com ------ LEGAL BATTLES
Some of Canada's high-profile terrorism- related cases have been dealt legal setbacks. MOHAMED HARKAT Arrested in Dec. 2002 after CSIS accused him of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. He was held under a controversial security certificate but released on $100,000 bail in May 2006. This week, a judge relaxed his bail conditions, lifting the 24-hour surveillance outside Harkat's home and allowing him to travel alone in the national capital region. OMAR KHADR Captured by American forces at the age of 15 in Afghanistan, Khadr is a Canadian citizen and the youngest prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay. The government of Canada has refused to seek his repatriation. A Federal Court ruling in April 2009 said that under international law, Canada should immediately repatriate Khadr. The government appealed, but the ruling stuck. The case will now be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada on Nov. 13, 2009. HASSAN ALMREI Arrested in 2001 under a security certificate and accused of terrorist connections, the Syria-born Almrei was accused of terrorist connections by CSIS. The agency also claimed he was devoted to Osama bin Laden. In 2008, Almrei was the last occupant of a detention facility at the Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont., designed to house those held under certificates. He was released under house arrest in January. © 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.