Harkat gears up for court

posted on October 25, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Megan Gillis Source: The Ottawa Sun online URL: [link] Date: October 25, 2004 Evidence mystery to legal team

NEARLY TWO years after his arrest, accused al-Qaida sleeper agent Mohamed Harkat is finally getting his day in court. However one of his lawyers, Matt Webber, says Harkat and his legal team are going into the hearing blind since much of the so-called evidence against him hasn't been disclosed for "national security" reasons. "He's upset at having to go into this proceeding blind -- those were his words," Webber said yesterday.The Algerian national was arrested in Ottawa Dec. 10, 2002 under a rarely used section of Canada's immigration laws that deals with security certificates. A hearing to determine the validity of the security certificate, or the truth of the allegations against him, begins today. If Harkat loses his arguments and a Federal Court judge finds that the certificate is valid, the man who says he came to Canada for a better life will be deported. MUJAHEDEEN CLAIM

Also accused of having links to the banned Armed Islamic Group and the mujahedeen, Harkat's lawyer says he knows little about the evidence against his client. "That's the fundamentally frustrating thing about this whole process -- we still know almost nothing about the nature of the allegations," Webber said. "How do you possibly defend him when you know nothing about the case?" Webber will argue today that identification of his client as an al-Qaida agent was likely elicited through American torture. TERROR ACCUSATION

CSIS has accused Harkat of having ties to one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah allegedly identified Harkat as the proprietor of a Pakistani guest house for mujahedeen on their way to Chechnya in the mid-1990s. Harkat told the Sun he's never met Zubaydah. Webber believes Zubaydah identified Harkat while being tortured by Americans at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "There's a lot of information out there that suggests that those prisoners were abused at the hands of their captors," Webber said. Also at issue is whether CSIS has the expertise to investigate cases like this, Webber said. The Crown hasn't called a witness from CSIS but a judge has already heard the testimony of secret witnesses. All the defence could do is submit hundreds of questions to the court. They got few answers. "That's how bizarre this is," Webber said. "We don't know who and what they testified to." Copyright 2004, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc. All rights reserved.