Accused's lawyers slam CSIS

posted on October 27, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Andrew Seymour Source: The Ottawa Sun online URL: [link] Date: October 26, 2004 Spies ill-informed, judge told

LAWYERS FOR an Ottawa man with alleged terror ties questioned the competence and credibility of Canada's national security intelligence agency yesterday. On the first day of Mohamed Harkat's security certificate hearing, lawyer Paul Copeland argued in front of Federal Judge Eleanor Dawson that members of CSIS are sometimes ill-informed and don't understand the communities they are collecting intelligence on. "I think the competence of CSIS and the ability to do their job and to prepare reports that are actually fair is significantly limited," Copeland told reporters outside court. "I can give you chapter and verse of cases I've been involved in where people who have testified haven't known what they are talking about," he said. Copeland presented three government Security Intelligence Review Committee reports that were critical of the agency, including one pertaining to the case involving Maher Arar.FACING DEPORTATION

Harkat, 36, was arrested outside his Vanier apartment on Dec. 10, 2002 under a rarely used section of Canada's immigration laws that deals with security certificates. This week's hearing will determine whether the security certificate, signed by then-solicitor general Wayne Easter and former Immigration minister Denis Coderre, is valid and whether there is truth to the allegations. If Harkat loses, he will be deported. CSIS believes Harkat is an al-Qaida sleeper agent who was identified to U.S. authorities by Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama Bin Laden's top lieutenants. Zubaydah allegedly identified Harkat as the proprietor of a Pakistani guest house for mujahadeen on their way to Chechnya in the mid-1990s. But Harkat's lawyers argued yesterday that they have no way of knowing whether Zubaydah was being tortured at the time. Copeland and co-counsel Matt Webber have struggled to mount a defence for Harkat because they don't have full disclosure of so-called evidence against him. They were able to submit 231 questions on the evidence but most were referred to other agencies or went unanswered for reasons of national security. "We've seen nothing that makes him an al-Qaida sleeper," said Copeland. Harkat's wife Sophie expressed disappointment his lawyers won't be able to cross-examine anyone from CSIS. LIFE 'AT STAKE'

"My husband's life is at stake," said Sophie Harkat, who fears her husband will be deported back to his native Algeria. "If the certificate is deemed reasonable he will be deported, labelled a presumed terrorist by the Canadian government and the Algerian government will probably execute him," she said. While Harkat has lost confidence in Canada's justice system, she admitted looking forward to her husband's court appearances. Yesterday she was able to hug, kiss and briefly visit with her husband during breaks. "I've been waiting over a year to hug my husband," said Harkat, who otherwise only sees him twice a week for 20 minutes at a time through a pane of glass. Mohamed Harkat is expected to testify later this week. andrew dot seymour at ott dot sunpub dot com