Federal Court halts deportation of Mohamed Harakat

Posted by admin on May 12th, 2007

Ottawa Citizen, 12 May 2007 Andrew Duffy

Mohamed Harkat, who is under house arrest, appeared at Federal Court Thursday to fight extradition. He claims to be in danger of torture or death in his native country, Algeria. A Federal Court judge has shut down the government’s bold attempt to deport Mohamed Harkat before Parliament puts in place a security certificate law that conforms to the constitution.

Justice Francois Lemieux yesterday ordered a permanent stay on the process leading to Mr. Harkat’s removal to Algeria.

The federal government had been seeking to move ahead with that removal even though the Supreme Court of Canada has said the hearing that found Mr. Harkat to be a terrorist was fundamentally unjust.

Judge Lemieux said Mr. Harkat could be denied the benefit of the Supreme Court’s decision if the deportation process was allowed to proceed.

Mr. Harkat’s lawyer, Paul Copeland, said the judge’s decision brought his client an immense sense of relief. Mr. Harkat fears he will be tortured or killed if returned to his native land. But it struck me as nuts that we even had to argue the application,” Mr. Copeland said.

The decision to pursue Mr. Harkat’s deportation, he said, is the latest in a series of “strange decisions” made by the government during the lengthy security certificate litigation process.

Mr. Harkat, an Algerian refugee, was working as a gas station attendant in Ottawa when he was taken into custody on the strength of a security certificate in 2002 and accused of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent.

In February, the Supreme Court gave the federal government one year in which to devise a new, fairer security certificate review process. The high court said the existing process is so secretive as to deny defendants the fundamental right to meet the case against them. Judge Lemieux ruled that Mr. Harkat’s deportation should not proceed based on evidence that the Supreme Court has deemed to be flawed.

“At worst … if Mr. Harkat was deported to Algeria within the one-year suspension period, the relief provided by the Supreme Court of Canada to remedy the violation of his Charter rights would be nugatory,” Judge Lemieux wrote in his 29-page judgment.

The judge also rejected the contention of federal lawyer Donald MacIntosh, who had said the government is “duty bound” to pursue the deportation.

Mr. MacIntosh had argued that Mr. Harkat, because he’s detained under provisions of immigration law, would have to be released unconditionally if the government did not make an attempt to deport him.

Judge Lemieux, however, said Mr. Harkat’s status has not changed because the security certificate issued against him remains lawful.

Mr. Harkat was released last year on strict bail conditions that keep him largely confined to the Ottawa home he shares with his wife and mother-in-law.

Mr. Harkat has been under a deportation order since March, 2005 when Judge Eleanor Dawson upheld as reasonable the security certificate issued against him. Judge Dawson concluded that Mr. Harkat was a terrorist threat based largely on evidence heard in secret.

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