Harkat denies he ever helped Islamic extremists

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

Original author: Jim Bronskill
Source: The Ottawa Citizen, CP
URL: [link]
Date: October 27, 2004

OTTAWA -- An Ottawa man accused of terrorist links denied Wednesday that he ever assisted Islamic extremists.

Mohamed Harkat told the Federal Court of Canada he has never had dealings with members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network.

"No, sir," the soft-spoken Harkat replied to his lawyer when asked about the allegations.The government has initiated proceedings to deport Harkat, a 36-year-old refugee from Algeria, under a national security certificate based on information gathered by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Once testimony is complete, the Federal Court will either reject or uphold the certificate. If it is ruled valid, Harkat will almost certainly be removed from Canada.

CSIS contends Harkat is an Islamic extremist and member of bin Laden's terrorist network, the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The spy service, which watched Harkat for five years prior to his December 2002 arrest, also argues he supports Afghani, Pakistani and Chechen extremists.

CSIS contends that Abu Zubaydah, one of bin Laden's chief lieutenants, identified Harkat as the operator of a guest house in Pakistan for extremists travelling to Chechnya.

Harkat's lawyers have steadfastly denied their client is involved in terrorism.

During hearings this week, they questioned the competence of CSIS and argued Zubaydah's evidence should be given no weight as it was likely extracted by his U.S. captors under torture.

Harkat, born in Algeria, arrived in Toronto in 1995 from Malaysia using a false Saudi Arabian passport and made a refugee claim based on a fear of persecution by the Algerian government. He has said he used the Saudi passport, for which he paid $1,200 US, to avoid the need for a visa to enter Canada.

He subsequently moved to Ottawa, married and worked most recently as a pizza delivery man and gas station attendant. Harkat was granted refugee status in February 1997 and applied for permanent residence in Canada the next month.

© Canadian Press 2004