Harkat's rights breached: Lawyer

posted on December 08, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Tobi Cohen
Source: The Ottawa Sun
URL: [link]
Date: December 8, 2004

The lawyer for accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat yesterday laid the groundwork for an appeal, arguing the entire security certificate hearing violates Harkat's constitutional rights. While the constitutionality question has been tried and defeated in similar cases, Harkat's lawyer, Paul Copeland, said that even though he "can't win at this level," he had to make the argument so he could take it to the next level.

With the case of Adil Charkaoui, a Montreal man also accused of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, appealed as recently as Nov. 8, lawyers on both sides of the Harkat case expressed hope that Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson would hold off on her verdict until the Charkaoui case is decided."If they actually find that it's unconstitutional, then presumably she would follow the Federal Court of Appeal in Charkaoui," Copeland said. Although Dawson suggested she disagreed, government lawyer Donald MacIntosh argued Federal Court judges don't have jurisdiction to decide on matters of constitutionality in such hearings. He also argued the prime goal of the security certificate legislation is that matters be handled as expeditiously as possible and noted questions of constitutionality would hamper that process. SECRET REPORTS

"Because the scheme is difficult to operate under doesn't mean it violates the scheme of fundamental justice," he said, adding Copeland "failed to demonstrate any Charter breaches whatsoever." In making his case, Copeland argued that national security is no reason to trample over an individual's right to a fair trial. Noting much of the case against Harkat had been made in secret through written reports passed between CSIS, government lawyers and Dawson, Copeland suggested the process provided no way of testing the evidence through the cross-examination of witnesses. "In my view, it makes it very difficult to arrive at a just decision," he told the judge, adding it would be "impossible" for her to fairly evaluate the evidence before her and the credibility of those presenting it. Recognizing the sensitivity surrounding some of the information, Copeland suggested the process should involve a third party that can test the evidence in camera as is the case in Britain. Harkat has been in custody on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent since his Dec. 10, 2002, arrest and faces deportation if he loses the case. The hearing continues today. tobi dot cohen at ott dot sunpub dot com Copyright © 2004, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc. All rights reserved.