Terror ties out of the question

posted on November 04, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Andrew Seymour Source: The Ottawa Sun online URL: N/A Date: October 29, 2004 Feds avoid quizzing Harkat on al-Qaida

Government lawyers took little more than an hour to cross-examine alleged terrorist Mohamed Harkat yesterday, avoiding any direct allegations of terrorist activity and focusing their questions on where Harkat got his money to travel and a pair of lies he told CSIS agents. Although government lawyer James Matheson asked about Harkat's five years in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan, he did not ask any questions about Abu Zubaydah, a top al-Qaida lieutenant who CSIS alleges identified Harkat as the proprietor of a Pakistani guest house for mujahedeen fighters following his capture in March 2002.Harkat, who remained calm and collected throughout the cross-examination, said he visited Peshawar often and socialized with other men during his time in the refugee camp but could not remember many of their names. Matheson asked Harkat why he lied to CSIS agents on more than one occasion about the alias Abu Muslim, which Harkat used while in Pakistan. Harkat said he was scared and believed CSIS was looking for another person. ASKED TO LIE

When Matheson asked why Harkat lied about a taxi-driving friend named Taher during those same interviews, Harkat said he was asked by Taher to lie. Matheson also asked Harkat about a car ride to Toronto from Ottawa with his then-roommate Mohamed El Barsiergy and accused terrorist Ahmed Said Khadr, who was involved with Muslim charities in Pakistan at the same time Harkat worked at a warehouse for a different man. "Even though you had common interests, you had very little discussion on this five-hour car ride?" asked Matheson. "My situation and going to the airport and what was going to happen to me was more important than what they were talking about," Harkat replied. Matheson also asked several questions about how a young university student could afford numerous plane tickets and a $1,200 US phony Saudi passport to come to Canada. Harkat said the tickets were either gifts or paid for with money he had saved. Harkat's lawyers were caught off guard by the short cross-examination. "I would have thought they would have had more things to question him on to suggest he wasn't telling the truth," Paul Copeland said outside the court. 'UNFAIR' PROCESS

Copeland said the brief cross-examination shows the government doesn't intend to make its case in public. "This process the way it is in Canada is unfair to virtually everybody," he said. "It is unfair to Mr. Harkat, it is unfair to the public of Canada and it is unfair to the judge." Harkat's hearing has now been adjourned until the week of Dec. 6, when his lawyers have expressed their intention to call former CSIS director Reid Morden to testify. Morden, who headed the agency from 1987 to 1991, was quoted in a Washington Post article as saying that Harkat had made telephone calls to al-Qaida members in the United States. Copeland said no such evidence has been presented by CSIS. andrew dot seymour at ott dot sunpub dot com