PHOTO: Mohamed Harket said it was a relief to be free after having his ankle bracelet removed, July 18, 2013. Photograph by: PAT McGRATH , THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
OTTAWA — Mohamed Harkat, the accused al-Qaida operative under the unwavering eye of Canada’s security services since 1995, has won more freedom.
Shortly after 8 o’clock Wednesday night in a government office near St. Laurent Boulevard, the 44-year-old Algerian had a GPS tracking bracelet unstrapped from his right ankle by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer.
For the first time in seven years, Harkat can now walk, sleep and bathe without the bulky electronic surveillance device locked around his limb.
The Federal Court of Canada, in a decision made public Thursday, also gave him permission to own a basic cellphone with a capacity for incoming and outgoing calls and text messaging, an Internet-enabled desktop computer and permission to travel within Canada.
“Yesterday, I saw a sparkle in Mo’s eyes I hadn’t seen in a really, really long time, his face was just glowing,” Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said Thursday.
“He got up this morning feeling refreshed because he actually slept with his two ankles on top of each other rather than crossed. He’s been sleeping with crossed legs for the past seven years.”
The CBSA offered a restrained response Thursday. The federal government maintains Harkat poses a threat to national security and wants him deported.
“The CBSA respects the decision of the Federal Court and remains diligent in monitoring all persons, such as Mr. Harkat, who are under terms and conditions of release,” it said in an emailed statement.
Harkat has not viewed the Internet since at least 2002 when he was first jailed on what remains largely secret evidence under federal security certificate as a suspected al-Qaida terrorist.
After being released on a court order in 2006 and placed under virtual house arrest, he remained off-line as a condition of his bail release.
“He’s never been able to communicate with family (overseas) through email, he has no clue how big the Internet is. For him, it’s (going to be) so new,” said his wife.
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