Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Canada to appoint advocates for terrorism suspects

Randall Palmer, Reuters

Published: 0 minutes ago

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada intends to appoint British-style special advocates who will be granted access to secret evidence to defend foreigners suspected of terrorism, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said on Monday.

Day introduced a bill that would create the special advocates to meet the demands of the Supreme Court. The court ruled in February that "security certificates" under which the foreign suspects are held are unconstitutional unless someone can challenge any evidence the government may be keeping secret.

The minister dismissed the idea that Canadian security could be jeopardized by the bill or that friendly countries would hesitate to share intelligence if the advocates were able to see the information.

"Many other jurisdictions have similar types of processes in place, so we don't see a problem," Day told reporters.

The certificates apply to six men currently, five Muslim Arabs and one from Sri Lanka. One of the six is in jail and the others have been released with restrictions on their movements as long as they stay in Canada. They are, however, free to leave the country.

Canada has tried to deport the men but they protest their innocence and have said they would be tortured if sent home.

Their lawyers have complained that they have not been able to defend their clients adequately without seeing the evidence against them.

The Supreme Court suspended its judgment for a year, giving Parliament until next February to pass a suitable replacement.

One of the terrorism suspects, Algerian Mohamed Harkat, said in a statement on Friday: "A modified security certificate allows indefinite detention, harsh bail and the use of secret evidence."

Day pointed out that the Supreme Court upheld the use of security certificates as long as the process was modified.