Harkat fears torture, death if deported to Algeria

Harkat fears torture, death if deported to Algeria

CTV.ca News Staff, Jul. 10, 2006 http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/

Mohamed Harkat, who was held in jail for more than three years over allegations that he has ties to al Qaeda, says he fears being tortured or killed if he is sent back to his native Algeria.

The Ottawa man was arrested in December 2002 on a controversial security certificate based on allegations of ties to the al Qaeda terrorism network.

He denied charges that he has been linked to the terror network.

« I didn’t see no evidence, just allegations, » he said at a press conference on Monday.

« I’m innocent from this stuff, I’ve never been a member of al Qaeda. »

Harkat was released on bail last month after a Federal Court judge cited « unexplained delays » in the case.

Under the strict bail terms set out by the court, Harkat is required to wear an electronic monitoring device, is under virtual house arrest most of the time, must give up his travel documents, and may not converse in Arabic.

Despite the stringent conditions, Harkat’s wife Sophie said she is ecstatic to have her husband back at home.

« I forgot how I enjoyed being with my husband. I love his presence. I love his laughter — he is extremely funny, he is sincere, he is very affectionate, » she said in French.

She said they went out together for the first time since his release about two weeks ago.

« That was a bit scary, to face the public together and see what the public reaction was going to be, but the public has been very nice, » she said.

« People are actually happy to see him out and people are congratulating him. »

Harkat is one of five Muslim men being held on controversial security certificates issued under federal immigration law.

Lawyers for terror suspects Hassan Almrei and Adil Charkaoui are expected to appear before the Supreme Court in July to argue a constitutional challenge of the federal security certificates, which are used to expel non-citizens considered to be security threats.

In March 2005, a Federal Court justice upheld the security certificate on which Harkat has been held, paving the way for his deportation to his native Algeria.

That decision was based mainly on confidential information that has never been released to Harkat or his lawyers.

However, his lawyers have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to review the constitutionality of the certificate scheme.

« We argued the case in the Supreme Court a few weeks ago. We’ve applied to strike down basically the relevant sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as unconstitutional, » Harkat’s lawyer Matt Webber said on Monday.

« Our main grounds for challenging that act are that we simply have no clue what the nature of the case against Mr. Harkat is. »

Harkat denies link to bin Laden network

James Stribopoulos, a lawyer and assistant professor at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall law school, says the security certificate procedure means permanent residents or refugees can be arrested and held in custody pending deportation.

« The only protection that exists for someone like Mr. Harkat as the law is currently drafted, is to have the material put forward reviewed by a federal court judge without scrutiny by Mr. Harkat’s lawyers or lawyers acting on his behalf, » said Stribopoulos, adding that this contributes to a risk of misrepresentation.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) contends that Harkat is an Islamic extremist and collaborator with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, a charge which Harkat denies.

The spy service, which watched Harkat for five years prior to his arrest, also argues he supports Afghan, Pakistani and Chechen extremists.

CSIS has said that Abu Zubaydah identified Harkat as the operator of a guest house in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The house was open to extremists travelling to Chechnya.

But Harkat denies those claims, saying he found work in Pakistan with a relief organization.

Harkat flew to Toronto in 1995 from Malaysia using a false Saudi Arabian passport, which he purchased for $1,200 US.

After winning refugee status, Harkat settled in Ottawa where he worked as a pizza delivery man and gas station attendant to support his family.

Adil Charkaoui of Montreal, another one of the men held on security certificates, has also been freed on bail.