Ottawa clears way for lawyers to act as advocates

posted on April 15, 2008 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Canadian Press
Source: The Globe and Mail
URL: [link]
Date: April 15, 2008

OTTAWA - Legal obstacles have been cleared for two lawyers to become the first special advocates appointed in Canada to protect the rights of accused terrorists.

The federal government dropped its objections to the appointment of Paul Copeland and John Norris after the two lawyers agreed to end their involvement in other national security cases that might have put them in a conflict of interest.

It will be up to the judge designated to hear each case to choose a special advocate for each accused. However, the fact that the government has dropped its objections likely clears the way for Mr. Copeland to act as special advocate for Hassan Almrei and Mohamed Harkat, and for Mr. Norris to represent Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, all accused of terrorist acts.

All four were initially detained under Canada's secretive security certificate process, under which the government was able to present evidence behind closed doors, without lawyers representing the men.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down security certificates as unconstitutional. In response, the government rewrote the law to allow security-cleared lawyers, known as special advocates, to attend the closed hearings, challenge government evidence and protect the rights of the accused.

The agreement struck between the federal government and Mr. Copeland and Mr. Norris was summarized in a Federal Court order yesterday.

The government was concerned that the two lawyers, as special advocates, would be privy to secret information.

In particular, the government insisted neither lawyer be involved in future with the Iacobucci inquiry, which is investigating the claims of three men who say they were tortured in Syria as suspected terrorists.

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