Court hears final arguments in Harkat case

posted on December 10, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: CBC News Staff
Source: CBC.CA
URL: [link]
Date: December 10, 2004

OTTAWA - Lawyers for a local man accused of being a terrorist made their final arguments in an Ottawa courtroom Thursday. Paul Copeland, Harkat's lawyer

Paul Copeland, Harkat's lawyer Mohamed Harkat has spent the past two years in an Ottawa jail, held on national security certificate.

If the federal government's case against him is upheld, he could be sent back to his native Algeria. The federal spy agency, CSIS, believes Harkat is a member of al Qaeda.

But much of the evidence is secret, even from Harkat and his lawyer, Paul Copeland."I think I used the word wonderland or Kafka earlier on in these proceedings; that's exactly what it is," said Copeland. "How you respond to anything when you don't know what's before the [judge] is very difficult."

Copeland argued that Mohamed Harkat was treated unfairly by Canada's spy agency.

The federal government argues that he is a threat to national security.

The government lawyers spent much of their final arguments portraying Harkat as a liar. Harkat has admitted to lying during interviews with CSIS, but Copeland claims he was trying to protect friends from being harassed by the agency.

"They threaten people, they've basically attempted to extort information from people or force them to become informants for them. So my client lied to them to protect one of his friends from being the subject of them. Yes, that's a problem. Is it understandable? I think it's understandable."

When giving his final arguments, Copeland had to literally guess at what the secret evidence might be and how he should argue the judge consider it.

Harkat's wife, Sophie, says she's not very optimistic given the one-sided nature of this hearing.

"I don't think anybody should sit in a courtroom where we don't have access to evidence," she said. "This is undemocratic. This is not the way Canada works. It's sad to say that we are no longer better here than anywhere else."

If Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson finds the security certificate justified in this case, it sets the stage for another legal battle over whether he should be deported.

Copeland says that if his client is sent back to Algeria he's at risk of being tortured, or even killed.

There is a final round of closing arguments that will take place behind closed doors, where government lawyers address evidence protected because it's been deemed a national security threat.

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