PHOTO: Terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has been freed from the GPS tracking anklet that he has had on for seven years. The device was removed on a federal judge’s order Thursday. Harkat cools off at a water park near his home in Ottawa, On. Thursday, July 18, 2013. This was the first time in seven years that Harkat wore shorts. Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency
Terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has been freed from the GPS tracking anklet that kept him “an animal on a leash” for seven years.
He slept in Thursday, the morning after the device was removed on a federal judge’s order, instead of waking at dawn to spend two hours charging it. He can wear shorts in the heat.
The weight he dragged with every step is gone.
“It’s relief, like breathing pure oxygen,” he said Thursday.
“It’s one step to clear my name. It gives me hope for the future, the victory just around the corner. It’s just a matter of time to get there.”
Harkat, 44, can also have a basic cell phone and use a desktop computer connected to the Internet, although it will be subject to monthly inspections.
“It goes without saying” that he can’t access jihad sites or contact anyone linked to terrorism, Judge Simon Noel wrote.
The next step is the Supreme Court in his fight against Canada’s system of security certificates, which allow non-citizens judged security threats to be detained and deported without seeing all the evidence against them.
It’s been more than a decade since the former pizza deliveryman was arrested outside his Vanier home.
The Algerian refugee denies allegations he was an al-Qaida sleeper agent who once ran a safe house in Pakistan for Islamic extremists.
He spent 3 1/2 years behind bars before being released on strict conditions. He’s since been served with a notice of deportation.
Federal Court Judge Noel cited the passage of time and its reduction of the risk Harkat poses to national security in concluding the “demanding, intrusive” conditions were “disproportionate.”
“The initial danger has diminished considerably,” Noel wrote in a decision released Thursday. “Mr. Harkat has complied through time with the strict conditions. Conditions of release therefore have to be adapted to this new favourable reality for Mr. Harkat.”
He’s now a “well-known person” who owes a lot to his friends and family and won’t disappoint them with a breach.
“The consequences for him are too important,” Noel wrote.
Matthew Webber, one of the lawyers who will take Harkat’s fight to the top court in October, called the changes to his conditions “sweeping.” It’s a “significant legal observation” that a judge found any risk to Canada has dropped over time.
“We still have the Supreme Court on the horizon,” Webber said, adding “the case isn’t over yet.”
megan.gillis AT sunmedia.ca
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