Harkat evidence slammed

posted on December 07, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Tobi Cohen Source: The Ottawa Sun URL: [link] Date: December 7, 2004 Defence, government clash over credibility of witnesses as terror suspect's hearing resumes

LAWYERS took shots at the credibility of each other's evidence yesterday as the security certificate hearing for suspected terrorist Mohamed Harkat reconvened after a hiatus of more than a month. Harkat's lawyer, Paul Copeland, slammed evidence identifying his client as the proprietor of a Pakistani guest house for mujahedeen fighters traveling to Chechnya in the mid-1990s because it was obtained from top al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubaydah. Copeland suggested Zubaydah made the statement under torture after his capture in March 2002 and that admitting it as evidence would violate international treaty."We have established on a balance of probability that Abu Zubaydah was tortured, that the information you got from him was obtained by torture, that the statements you got were tainted by that torture and that it should not be admitted at this hearing," he said. Meanwhile, government lawyers attacked the credibility of the only ex-CSIS agent a visibly frustrated Copeland could find to testify as to the gross incompetence within CSIS. Fired in January 1998, Jean-Luc Marchessault said he was the victim of a conspiracy ever since he began representing fellow employees as part of a professional organization and fought tooth and nail to save the job he loved. "I suggest to you in testifying against CSIS, you're settling the score, are you not?" government lawyer Michael Dale asked. 'DISAPPOINTED'

Marchessault, who confirmed in his testimony the validity of a series of media reports about how CSIS abused its power over employees and how agents lost highly classified documents, replied: "I was really disappointed in losing a job I enjoyed. Is that biased? That's for you to detect." Copeland admitted to reporters the circumstances surrounding Marchessault's dismissal could hurt his case but said his evidence about the use of informants was valuable. Despite government concerns the information would threaten national security, Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson allowed Marchessault to testify that informants typically came forward for one of four reasons -- money, revenge, persuasion or a sense of civic duty. 'UNRELIABLE'

Copeland said he could only assume CSIS got its information through informants and noted he'd already filed a report with the court that suggests jailhouse informants are "totally unreliable and should be eliminated from the system." Copeland said his options were limited since government lawyers weren't calling any CSIS agents he could cross-examine and the two other former CSIS agents he approached refused to testify. Copeland is expected to argue the unconstitutionality of the security certificate process today. If the defence loses its arguments, Harkat will be deported. tobi dot cohen at ott dot sunpub dot com