Reluctant judge orders security certificate arrestee back to prison

Posted by admin on Mar 19th, 2009

COLIN FREEZE. March 19, 2009, Globe and Mail

TORONTO — A terrorism suspect pleaded to be returned to prison yesterday, as a reluctant Federal Court judge tried – and failed – to come up with an alternative. “Do I have a choice?” asked Mr. Justice Simon Noel, several times. “… I never thought it would come to this.” But Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, an Egyptian deemed to be a threat to Canada’s national security, insisted it was the only way. “I have to go back to jail to protect my family,” he told the judge. It was a strange spectacle, but not an unanticipated one. Constant surveillance by federal agents outside of prison, Mr. Mahjoub argued, was worse than life behind bars.

With that, the father of two young sons made good on a promise to surrender himself yesterday. Finding there was no other option but to oblige the man, Judge Noel ordered Mr. Mahjoub back to a special prison for terrorism suspects in Kingston.

On Tuesday, the prisoner’s wife and stepson notified the court – with his blessing – that they would no longer serve as his supervisors. Their renouncement nullified a hard-won bail agreement that Mr. Mahjoub was awarded after years of Federal Court arguments, as he was jailed from 2000 to 2007.

Canada’s security-certificate law allows potentially dangerous non-citizens to be locked up pending deportation. A late-1990s intelligence investigation concluded Mr. Mahjoub was a dangerous undesirable, given he once worked directly for Osama bin Laden at a Sudanese farming enterprise.

That was prior to his claiming asylum in Canada. So far, however, fears of Egyptian torture have rendered deportation a non-option. And judges have upheld that indefinite detention is inhumane.

That left house arrest. The Federal Court ordered Mr. Mahjoub back into his family home two years ago, with security-certificate scrutiny similar to measures four other immigrant Islamists currently face.

Mr. Mahjoub agreed to surrender any pretense of privacy. He was closely supervised by his wife and adult stepson. Federal agents followed and photographed him during the few weekly outings he was permitted. His phone was bugged, his mail intercepted, and he was outfitted with an ankle transponder that let officials know where he was at all times.

Enforced by the Canada Border Services Agency, these measures led to situations no one imagined – and a litany of complaints recalled during testimony yesterday by an angry Mr. Mahjoub and his tearful wife, Mona El Fouli.

They recounted how CBSA agents followed them into a closed hospital room, as Ms. El Fouli miscarried. They said family trips to skating rinks and Ontario Place were ruined by surveillance and surreptitious photography.

Ultimately, the Mahjoubs said they would no longer dignify a process that had humiliated them and deprived their two sons of any semblance of a normal life.

When Mr. Mahjoub went to court to turn himself in yesterday, a security guard’s wand hummed over his ankle. He had to explain that the metal was in his irremovable GPS bracelet, before he was waved through and allowed to surrender.

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