CSIS mistakes could affect Almrei verdict: Judge

Posted by admin on Jul 2nd, 2009

July 02, 2009. Michelle Shephard. Toronto Star

A Federal Court judge said revelations that Canada’s spy service mishandled evidence in the terrorism case of a Syrian refugee is of “great concern to the court” and could affect the outcome of the case. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service admitted it failed to disclose evidence that a confidential informant was “deceptive” when answering questions. A second source cited in the government’s case against Hassan Almrei was not subjected to a lie-detector test, contrary to what the agency had claimed in court documents.

The disclosures were outlined in two letters written by Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley and obtained by the Star earlier this week. They come just weeks after an Ottawa judge criticised CSIS for omitted evidence in a separate terrorism case, prompting an internal CSIS investigation.

Lorne Waldman, Almrei’s lawyer, began closing submissions today arguing that the mistakes are an abuse of process and that the case must be thrown out. Since the proceedings are held partly in private and sources not subjected to cross-examination, Waldman argued that the court has to “rely on assurances by CSIS,” that the information is accurate. The blunders amount to a “pattern of consistent non-compliance,” he said, and throw into question eight years of previous court decisions based on faulty evidence.

“You’ve raised a number of weighty questions,” Mosley responded, reserving his decision until he hears the government’s private submissions. “I can assure you they are of great concern to the court.”

Government lawyers did not make public submissions concerning the erroneous disclosure.

Almrei was detained in October 2001 on a national security certificate and held until earlier this year when he was released on strict conditions. The government accused him of belonging to a forgery ring that provided documents to terrorists and supported the ideology espoused by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He admitted to helping a Syrian friend procure a fake document and misleading Canadian authorities.

Justice department lawyers spent today detailing the case against Almrei, portraying him as a committed jihadist and outlining connections he made as a teenager fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Almrei’s lawyers will present their defence tomorrow.

If Mosley upholds the government’s national security certificate Almrei faces deportation to Syria, where he claims he will be tortured.

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