Canada presses for deportation of terror suspect

Canada presses for deportation of terror suspect

David Ljunggren, Reuters, 18 July 2006

OTTAWA, July 18 (Reuters) – Canada is pressing ahead with plans to deport an Algerian man deemed to be a national security risk, despite his protestations that he could be tortured in Algeria, the man’s lawyer and wife said on Tuesday.

Mohamed Harkat is currently out on bail while the Supreme Court decides whether the system of national security certificates used to detain him without trial are constitutional or not.

Canada’s Border Services Agency, which has to weigh the balance between the likelihood that Harkat will be mistreated in Algeria and the risk he poses to Canada, sent him a letter last Friday saying it planned to proceed with a deportation order that was signed in March 2005.

Harkat’s lawyer, Paul Copeland, said he would file for a judicial review of the decision.

« He’s not going anywhere, » Copeland told Reuters, saying Harkat would definitely be staying in Canada until the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. That decision is expected some time later this year.

Harkat is one of five Muslim foreigners who have been held without charge by Canada on suspicion of being terrorists, since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Earlier this year a court said Harkat could be freed under strict conditions even though it found he had lied under oath about his association with Bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and having assisted Islamic extremists. Harkat rejects the charge he is linked to terror groups.

Last Thursday the government failed in its bid to persuade a court to overturn Harkat’s bail and send him back to jail. Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said she was not surprised by the deportation letter.

« We knew it was coming. I don’t think it was any surprise that it was going to be negative. What shocked me is that they did it not even 24 hours after the appeal was won, » she told Reuters by phone.

No one from the Border Services Agency was available for comment.

The decision, taken by a senior official, said: « On the basis of information considered by me I am of the opinion … that Mohamed Harkat should not be allowed to remain in Canada based on danger to the security of Canada. »

Canadian law does not allow the deportation of people to countries where they could be at risk of persecution, except in the cases of those deemed to be « a danger to the public in Canada or … inadmissible on the grounds of security ».

The four other men — who are still in detention — have been held without charge under controversial national security certificates, which allow for secret hearings to determine whether they should be deported.

Lawyers for the five told the Supreme Court last month that if the men were suspected of being terrorists they should be charged and tried. They condemned as unfair the secret hearings where the accused can see little of the evidence against them.

Ottawa says tough detention laws are a reasonable response to the threat of terrorism, and denies it is unfairly targeting Arabs and Muslims.