Federal court deems Harkat raid illegal

Posted by admin on Jun 23rd, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009, The Canadian Press

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled the search of a suspected terrorist’s home violated his constitutional rights and ordered the Canada Border Services Agency to return everything it seized. In a 24-page decision released Tuesday, Justice Simon Noel says the May 12 raid violated the charter rights of Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian refugee whom the Canadian Security Intelligence Service accuses of having ties to terrorist organizations.

“The breach of Mr. Harkat’s charter rights was significant,” Noel wrote.

“While the CBSA may not have acted in bad faith, they acted with disregard for the terms of the former order and the requirements of Section 8 of the charter.

“This court cannot condone the type of intrusive search undertaken by the CBSA. Mr. Harkat may have a diminished expectation of privacy, but that does not give the state a ‘carte blanche’ to unreasonably intrude on what privacy is left to him.”
Surprise raid

Sixteen border services and police officers, accompanied by three sniffer dogs, spent six hours searching Harkat’s house from top to bottom in the surprise raid they said was permitted under the terms of his bail.

They carted away legal papers, family photo albums, a personal computer, hundreds of diskettes, and daytimers belonging to Harkat’s wife Sophie.

Harkat’s lawyers called the raid an illegal and abusive fishing expedition.

Noel agreed, but also said some of the evidence the officers seized raises concerns that the conditions of Harkat’s release are not being fully complied with.

He singled out one report that claimed Harkat’s wife, Sophie, failed to arm the alarm system while her husband was alone at home.

Border services should seek authorization from the Federal Court “to execute an authorized and minimally intrusive search” if it has a valid concern about Harkat’s compliance with the terms and conditions of his release, Noel said.

The former pizza delivery man and gas station attendant was released on bail in 2006 after being held for 3½ years without trial under a national security certificate. Harkat has repeatedly denied any involvement with terrorism.

As part of his stringent bail conditions, Harkat wears a GPS device, his phone is tapped, his home is under video surveillance, and all visitors and mail to his home are screened.

In his ruling, Noel also ordered the CBSA to destroy any copies it made of any material seized in the search.

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