Wife's lonely vigil is her obsession

posted on August 04, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Lisa Lisle Source: The Ottawa Sun Online URL: [link] Date: July 31, 2004 Wife's lonely vigil is her obsession

Passing through the gates at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre for one of her cherished 20-minute visits with her husband, Sophie Harkat thinks about his 36th birthday next week. But instead of making plans for a party or a simple family gathering, Sophie Harkat sees it as yet another special occasion stolen from them by the Canadian government, which has accused her husband of having ties to terrorism. "I thought my second wedding anniversary was bad," she said of the month following Mohamed's arrest. "It's sad to say, but you kind of get used to it." And as time drags on, Sophie is left wondering when they'll be able to celebrate again. Next Friday, Mohamed's birthday will be like every other twice-weekly visit -- 20 minutes and no gifts from home. "As soon as it's finished, that's it," she said of the strict visitation rules. But the one-time government worker's life has changed in so many other ways since her husband's arrest.Although she tried to go back to work about a month after his arrest, she is now concentrating full time on his case. "My life now is not my work," she said. "It's my husband. To me it wasn't a choice. There was not choice." In addition to spending countless hours with lawyers, Sophie has also become a regular on the activist scene. She organizes rallies, attends conferences and offers support to others dealing with security certificates. SEARCHING FOR LIFELINE

Comparing her ordeal to cancer, Sophie said she hopes for the best, but never really knows how things will turn out. And if Mohamed's detention is her cancer, then the rallies and conferences are her chemo. "I need that to survive," she said. "It's my lifeline." She also has a new understanding of Canada's justice system -- and she doesn't really like what she's learned, especially when it comes to security issues. "If they were so sure about everything, they'd charge him," Sophie said of the fact her husband isn't facing any criminal charges. "Put it out there and we'll answer to it." Having never imagined herself in a situation like this, Sophie wishes others would take notice before something similar happens in their lives. "I used to be selfish and say, 'Oh as long as it doesn't affect me,' " she said. "Until I married a refugee, I thought there were too many out there." But now she believes that we all have a role in ensuring that the system is fair for everyone. With this new path in life, Sophie expects it's not the only thing that has changed forever. "If Moe gets out, we know we're going to be watched by CSIS," she said. "It's never going to be over." ACCUSATIONS

The allegations against Mohamed Harkat, as compiled in a CSIS report: - "Prior to arriving in Canada, the Service believes that Harkat engaged in terrorism by supporting terrorist activity. The Service furthermore believes that Harkat has engaged in those activities as a member of a terrorist entity known as the bin Laden Network, which includes al-Qaida." - "The Service believes Harkat has assisted some Islamic extremists who have come to Canada." - "The Service believes that Harkat has associated with Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants since the early 1990s." - "A foreign agency advised the Service in March 2003 that Abu Zubaydah was able to identify the respondent (Harkat) by his physical description and his activities, including that he operated a guest house in Peshawar, Pakistan, in the mid-1990s for mujahedeen travelling to Chechnya." lisa dot lisle at ott dot sunpub dot com