Federal Judge denies Harkat's lawyer permission to speak at conference on security certificates

posted on February 05, 2010 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Mohammed Adam
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: February 4, 2010

OTTAWA — Federal Judge Simon Noël Thursday denied Mohamed Harkat’s special advocate permission to speak on security certificates at a Toronto law conference this month, citing national security.

Paul Copeland, who represents Harkat in the closed hearings where sensitive information on national security is discussed, cannot speak publicly about the case without permission from Noël. In December, Copeland asked the court for permission to speak about the public phase of the Harkat hearing at the annual conference of the Law Union of Ontario, of which he is a founding member. The Toronto lawyer, who has been practising for more than 40 years, promised “not to discuss any aspect of the closed hearings or evidence that was regarded as subject to national security confidentiality.”

Government lawyers objected, saying Copeland could inadvertently revealed sensitive information that could harm national security. They pointed out that the speakers include Barbara Jackman who represents two people whose security certificate hearing is to begin soon. As well, Hassan Almrei, whose security certificate was quashed recently, had been invited to speak, even though he had not confirmed his participation. Copeland also acted as special advocate for Almrei.“These factors taken together and in the context of a lively panel discussion, amplify the prospect for inadvertent disclosure of confidential information,” lawyer David Tyndale, wrote in opposition.

In issuing the order, Noël agreed that allowing Copeland to speak is fraught with danger.

“I would feel ill at ease to letting you speak publicly about the procedure that’s ongoing. It is extremely important to the lawyers, to Mr. Harkat, not because I don’t trust you — that’s not the case,” Noël said.

“I trust myself and sometimes, a little slip of the tongue can put us in an odd situation.”

Special advocates were established to represent the interests of people who are detained under security certificates but because of the national security implications of sensitive information being used against, are not allowed to challenge the veracity of the information. Copeland acts as Harkat’s lawyer in the closed sessions but cannot discuss the information with him or the lawyers representing him in open court.

Government lawyers on Thursday continued their cross-examination of Harkat, trying to poke holes in his testimony on everything he said from the moment he left Algeria through his stay in Pakistan to his arrival and detention in Canada. The government believes that the case may well come down to a test of credibility, and a key part of the strategy during cross-examination was to try and undermine Harkat’s testimony, and destroy his credibility.

Harkat was to be back on the stand on Friday to complete his testimony.

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