Defence slams Harkat hearing secrecy

posted on October 30, 2004 | in Category | PermaLink

Original author: CBC News Staff
Source: CBC News Online
URL: [link]
Date: October 29, 2004

OTTAWA - The first week of a special judicial hearing for accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat has ended. Lawyers for the Crown needed only two hours to cross-examine him, Thursday. Their case didn't take long, because much of the trial is being conducted in secret.

Defence lawyer Paul Copeland says both he and his client are in the dark about the real case against Harkat."I don't know what the evidence is, and I don't know what the case is. It might be that the evidence is so totally overwhelming on paper that we're just wasting our time here. [It] might be that the evidence is very shaky on paper," Copeland says

Such is the secrecy in this case that even Harkat's statements are being kept from his defence team. On Thursday, defence lawyer Matthew Webber objected that his client was being cross-examined about statements he may never have even made, on the basis of summaries written by CSIS agents.

"It's just wholly unfair to challenge someone on somebody else's words," Webber says. "They're not his words, and they don't pretend to be. If they're the words of some CSIS agent, then they should not be put to him in a cross-examination as words that came out of his mouth."

The judge assured defence lawyers that she won't draw adverse inferences from any discrepancy between Harkat's testimony now, and what he's purported to have said in the CSIS summaries.

She also said she would discount any testimony incriminating Harkat that came from the interrogation of three other men once accused of having al-Qaeda connections, on the grounds that their words may have been compelled through torture overseas.

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