Lawyers for Harkat argue revised security certificate law still leaves defendants in the dark

posted on January 21, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: January 20, 2012

OTTAWA — Lawyers for Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat have asked the Federal Court of Appeal to strike down the country’s security certificate law for a second time.

The Harkat case will be the first to test whether the government’s revised security certificate law can withstand a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The previous version of the law, used to deport foreign-born terror suspects, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in February 2007.

In that ruling, Canada’s high court said the security certificate process was so secretive that it denied defendants the fundamental right to meet the case against them.

The government subsequently introduced a new law, which gave terror suspects the right to be represented in secret hearings by “special advocates” — defence lawyers with security clearance. Special advocates are allowed only limited contact with the accused.

Harkat’s legal team contends the new law still leaves defendants too much in the dark.

“The only evidence that truly matters is unknown to him (Harkat),” wrote lawyers Matthew Webber and Norm Boxall in a court brief.

“It is apparent that public proceedings are little more than a façade, with little to no direct evidence shown to Harkat.”

For example, they said, the federal government publicly alleged that Harkat spent time in Afghanistan. But the Algerian-born Harkat was told nothing about the timing, duration, purpose or destination of the alleged sojourn, which made it next to impossible to refute.

It is not enough, the lawyers argued, for the government to offer the “veneer of public disclosure” when it is only through detail that Harkat can attack the validity of such allegations.

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