Harkat's lawyers blast CSIS credibility

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

Original author: Michelle Shephard Source: The Toronto Star online URL: [link] (subscribers only) Date: Oct. 26, 2004 Lawyer seeks uncensored intelligence report But terror suspect can't question witnesses

OTTAWA - With no witnesses to cross-examine or theories to deconstruct, the lawyers representing an accused terrorist are attempting to discredit the way Canada handles security investigations. On the first day of a federal court hearing probing the government's decision to deport 36-year-old Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat on allegations that he is an Al Qaeda sleeper agent, lawyer Paul Copeland argued that evidence compiled by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could not be trusted.Copeland submitted annual reports produced by CSIS's civilian oversight agency pointing to past flawed investigations and asked federal government lawyers to provide Justice Eleanor Dawson a copy of an uncensored report investigating the spy service's handling of the Maher Arar case.

Only a censored version of the Security Intelligence Review Committee's report was released publicly last month at a federal inquiry probing the actions of Canadian officials in Arar's case. The 34-year-old Syrian-born Ottawa resident was detained in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was later deported, via Jordan, to Syria, where he was held for a year without charges.

"If I had a CSIS operative on the stand I could actually ask some questions about this stuff which would be the normal way in which you do it," Copeland said outside the court yesterday.

"I don't understand how you can do a case like this that is totally on paper."

There are currently five men suspected of terrorist connections being detained on a national security certificates, a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that grants the federal government the power to deport non-Canadian citizens if they pose a risk to the country's safety.

In some of the other cases CSIS agents have appeared before the court to defend their evidence and expert witnesses have been called. But Justice Department lawyers said yesterday they don't expect to present evidence during Harkat's public hearing. Copeland said all he can do to defend Harkat is to raise doubts about CSIS's competency and dissect the general allegations contained in a 40-page written summary.

Among the allegations is an assertion that fake Saudi passports are the "document of choice for Islamic extremists wishing to enter Canada." Harkat arrived in Canada in 1995 travelling on a fake Saudi passport.

Copeland said since CSIS could not provide statistics as to how many refugees used fake Saudi passports each year entering Canada, or what terrorists were known to use those documents, the comment was "prejudicial."

The hearing continues this week.