Judge orders reporters to reveal Charkaoui sources

Posted by admin on Jan 20th, 2008

Sue Montgomery. Canwest News Service. Saturday, January 19, 2008

MONTREAL — A Federal Court judge has ordered two reporters from Montreal’s La Presse to reveal their sources for a damning article about Adil Charkaoui, a Montreal man arrested in 2003 under a security certificate and accused of having ties to terrorists. Charkaoui’s rights and the administration of justice take precedence over freedom of the press and protection of sources, Judge Simon Noel wrote in his judgment, released Friday. While the courts try not to obstruct the work of journalists, this was an “exceptional case requiring a solution out of the ordinary,” Noel said.

The newspaper said it would appeal Noel’s decision.

“The protection of sources is a fundamental value for La Presse,” the paper’s editor, Eric Trottier, said in a statement. “We support our journalists.”

The June 22 article by Joel-Denis Bellavance and Gilles Toupin claimed a top-secret document from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Charkaoui had discussed using a commercial airliner to hit a foreign target in a 9/11-style attack. The document also noted Charkaoui was in Afghanistan in 1998 to take part in a military and theological training camp.

Both these unproven bits of information are part of a summary of evidence in the hands of the Federal Court to support the security certificate.

Since evidence for the certificate must be kept secret – even from the accused – it’s against the law for a third party to divulge the information, Noel said.

The Federal Court decision is the latest twist in the Moroccan-born Charkaoui’s legal battle since he was arrested in May 2003 and put in detention.

A security certificate is a tool under Canada’s immigration law that allows authorities to detain and possibly deport non-citizens suspected of being a threat to national security.

Human rights and legal advocates have criticized the secretive certificate. Charkaoui challenged its constitutionality at the Supreme Court in June 2006 and won.

Free on bail since February 2005, but still living under severe restrictions, the father of three wants the certificate quashed.

Charkaoui claims the newspaper report was illegal, false, damaging and deliberately planted by a government organization.

The judge said La Presse did not adequately consider the public interest before publishing the article, causing harm to Charkaoui and the administration of justice.

Charkaoui compares his situation to that of Maher Arar, the Canadian who was detained in 2002 by United States officials and interrogated about alleged links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. He was then flown to his native Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured before finally being returned to Canada in October 2003.

Three years later, a commission of inquiry cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations, and said the actions of Canadian officials probably led to his ordeal.

Montreal Gazette

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