Harkat federal appeals case begins

posted on February 22, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Danielle Bell Source: The Ottawa Sun URL: [link] Date: February 21, 2012 Accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat has nearly exhausted legal avenues but refuses to consider what will happen if he loses his latest battle. Lawyers for Harkat at the Federal Court of Appeal on Tuesday argued secret proceedings, the destruction of original material by CSIS, and limitations of special advocates were among reasons why he cannot effectively challenge or meet his case, which violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Harkat, who is alleged to have ties to al-Qaida and an Egyptian terrorist organization linked to the 9/11 attacks, has been fighting for nearly a decade to stay in Canada, since he was arrested on a federal security certificate. “It creates a situation where the public has to be taking it on faith,” said Norm Boxall, one of Harkat’s lawyers. “It creates potential damage to the administration of justice and the reputation of the court that’s dealing with it.” Harkat faces deportation and what he contends would be torture or death if he is sent back to Algeria. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the security certificate unconstitutional because it relied on secret evidence, which denied his right to a fair trial. Tuesday marked the first day of appeal arguments about the constitutionality of the security certificate since the government introduced special advocates in 2008. While the scheme has improved, said Boxall, it remains less than adequate since special advocates, who do not have the same powers as public counsel, are so limited. Harkat’s certificate was upheld in 2010 by a federal court judge. Being denied the basis to challenge the credibility of informants or refute allegations is unfair, said Boxall, and the case is then essentially being decided in secret. “The principle of fundamental justice is not met simply by saying Mr. Harkat had the opportunity to respond,” said Boxall. “It’s not enough to respond. You have to be given the opportunity to challenge the information.” Outside court, Harkat, who maintains his innocence and denies links to terrorism, said simply he will wait for the decision. “I hope the judge understands all the problems with this legislation and that I don’t have a fair trial,” Harkat. “It just goes on and on and on. I don’t want to jump steps ahead. I’ll see what the judge decides.” Depending on the ruling, there could be a new hearing, according to Boxall outside court. The appeal proceeding is expected to conclude on Thursday. danielle.bell AT sunmedia.ca

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