Harkat’s re-arrest a political statement as Security Certificate law set to expire

Posted by admin on Jan 31st, 2008

Andrew Duffy. The Ottawa Citizen. Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sophie Harkat accused the federal government yesterday of making a “political” statement with its sudden re-arrest of her husband, a terror suspect who has lived on strict bail conditions in Ottawa for the past 18 months. “I think it’s a political move,” she told the Citizen in an interview yesterday, one day after agents with the Canada Border Services Agency arrested Mohamed Harkat for an alleged bail violation. A spokesman for the border agency, Chris Williams, refused to comment on Ms. Harkat’s allegation.

Mr. Harkat will appear before Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson today to answer the bail violation charge and seek his release from jail.

Ms. Harkat suggested yesterday the government wants to stir fear at a critical time in the evolution of Canada’s national security laws.

Bill C-3, the government’s revised security certificate legislation, must be passed within the next three weeks — or else all of the existing certificates, including the one that brought Mr. Harkat before the courts, will be quashed in keeping with last year’s Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling found the old security certificate system was unconstitutional because it relied too heavily on secret hearings in which a lone judge tested evidence. The court suspended its declaration for one year, however, to give Parliament time to devise a new law.

Ms. Harkat said the timing of the arrest was curious, as the court is about to hear another security certificate appeal.

Montreal terror suspect Adil Charkaoui will be in the Supreme Court today to ask that his security certificate hearing be halted because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed evidence in his case.

“This is no coincidence,” said Ms. Harkat. “If you put it all together … it’s kind of weird, don’t you think?”

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day’s office said that, as a politician, he does not interfere in police operations, such as an arrest.

Federal agents and Ottawa police raided Mr. Harkat’s Heron Gate home Tuesday afternoon while he showered. He was taken into custody and charged with violating his bail, that among many other things, requires him to “reside” with his wife, Sophie, and his mother-in-law, Pierrette Brunette.

Ms. Brunette used to be in a relationship with the man, Alois Weidemann, who owns the house in which Mr. Harkat now lives. But several months ago, the couple split; Ms. Brunette has since begun a new relationship, which means she doesn’t always sleep in the same residence.

The federal government will argue today that Mr. Harkat breached conditions of his bail by failing to “reside” with Ms. Brunette and by keeping Mr. Weidemann, one of Mr. Harkat’s sureties, locked out of parts of the house.

Mr. Harkat’s lawyer, Paul Copeland, said yesterday that, in law, Ms. Brunette continued to reside in the Heron Gate home even though she spent some nights at another residence.

Mr. Harkat, he noted, has lived in the community for a year and a half without incident.

Mr. Copeland said the government could have notified him of the alleged breach and dealt with the issue in court next week, during a scheduled bail review. “Instead, they do this major raid and go out and arrest him,” he said, adding: “The timing of it is interesting.”

Mr. Harkat had been scheduled to appear in Federal Court on Monday to ask that he be allowed to stay home unsupervised by a surety.

Under terms of his June 2006 release, Mr. Harkat must wear an electronic monitoring device at all times; his mail is opened and his phone calls are tapped. His house can be searched by authorities without a warrant. He cannot leave Ottawa and cannot use a cellphone or computer.

His house has security cameras in front and back that record who enters and who leaves. He’s allowed three four-hour excursions every week, in addition to daily walks, but he must be in the company of a court-approved surety at all times, inside and outside his house.

Ms. Harkat said the onerous bail conditions have caused significant hardships. “I’ve been a prisoner in my own home,” she said. “It has created extreme tension and stress among family members, between relationships.”

An Algerian refugee accused of being an al-Qaeda agent, Mr. Harkat was in jail for three-and-a-half years on the strength of a government-issued security certificate until being released on bail because of delays in his deportation.

The Federal Court has upheld the certificate as “reasonable,” but most of the evidence against him was presented to a judge in secret with neither Mr. Harkat nor his lawyer there to challenge it.

  • Security Certificates
  • Comments Off on Harkat’s re-arrest a political statement as Security Certificate law set to expire

Comments are closed.