Friday, February 1, 2008

Five lost years

Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa Citizen- Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 Photo: Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press

How Benamar Benatta 'disappeared' after 9/11. The Canadian government sent him to the U.S. where he was accused of being behind the 9/11 bombings: 'The way they accused me, I thought my life was over'

Toronto's Benamar Benatta calls himself a forgotten victim of Sept. 11.

Mr. Benatta, 33, a former Algerian air force lieutenant, also has the dubious distinction of being the first victim of Canada's sometimes overzealous security response to the U.S. terror attacks.

Former Ottawa engineer Maher Arar is the best known victim of Canada's post-9/11 national security excesses. A secretive federal inquiry is now exploring what happened to three other Arab Canadians -- Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin -- who, like Mr. Arar, say they were tortured in Syria based on faulty Canadian intelligence.

Mr. Benatta's plight predates the others, but remains little known. He has also been unsuccessful at winning an official review of his case.

So he has launched a $35-million lawsuit against the federal government for what he says was his illegal removal to the U.S. as a terror suspect one day after the World Trade Centre was levelled.

Initially, he was considered a potential conspirator in the attacks. And, although he was cleared of any connection to terrorism by November 2001, he would spend almost five years in U.S. custody, where he would suffer serious degradation and mistreatment, before being mysteriously returned to this country at the behest of Canadian officials.

"You just can't take somebody who's innocent and accuse him of being involved in the worst terrorist crime -- and then just close your hands and make like nothing happened," says Mr. Benatta, who now holds refugee status in Canada.

"I would like to have answers about why. Somebody out there owes me an apology. Canada just can't take an innocent person and send him away and forget about him for five years."

Mr. Benatta will visit Ottawa on Tuesday to relate his nightmarish saga to an audience at the Public Service Alliance of Canada Hall. The next day, he will march with supporters to the Prime Minister's Office to renew his demand for a public review of his case.

His story begins in Algeria where he was born on May 16, 1974, the youngest of 10 children. Mr. Benatta joined the military at 18, and after a year of basic training, was sent to university where he studied aeronautical engineering. After graduation, he returned to the military and taught aeronautics.

But Mr. Benatta says he became uncomfortable with the military crackdown in Algeria that followed the annulled 1992 general election won by an Islamist party.

"I opposed the methods employed by the military," he says. "There were civilians caught in the line of fire."

In December 2000, he travelled to the U.S. for training with a major U.S. arms contractor, Northrup Grumman. But Mr. Benatta had secretly decided to defect: he carried with him his life's savings and his university diploma. In April 2001, he abandoned his training program and fled to New York City.

Mr. Benatta, however, figured his chances of making a successful refugee claim were better in Canada, so in early September 2001, he made for the border.

"I had the impression that Canada had protection for human rights," he says.

At the Fort Erie border crossing, Mr. Benatta presented the false green card and social security card he had obtained in New York City. When an immigration official questioned him, he admitted they were fraudulent and claimed political asylum.

He was held in custody at the Niagara Detention Centre while Canadian immigration officials confirmed his identity. Mr. Benatta was in custody on Sept. 11 and remained unaware that the world had changed drastically that morning.

The next day, he was interviewed by two officials who did not identify themselves. According to Mr. Benatta, he was asked whether he could fly a plane -- he can't -- and about his military training.

Hours later, he was placed in the back seat of a car. Mr. Benatta thought he was going to a bigger detention facility in Toronto, but instead, he was driven across the Rainbow Bridge and handed over to U.S. officials.

Mr. Benatta insists he did not withdraw his refugee claim -- as Canadian officials would later contend -- and never acceded to his transfer to the U.S.

Indeed, he says he didn't realize he had crossed the border until he saw the uniforms on the men who took him into custody.

"No one told me we were going to the States whatsoever," he says. "They just put me in the back of the car."

Mr. Benatta first learned of the terror attacks on the evening of Sept. 12 during an interview with FBI investigators. He quickly realized he was being accused of participating in the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

"They said, 'If you co-operate now, we are going to give you a life sentence instead of death penalty,'" he says. "They did receive certain information that I am the one who trained the 19 people (hijackers) or orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks. That's the information they give to me."

Four days later, Mr. Benatta was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, where he was held along with 83 other "high interest" suspects in the FBI's investigation of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Most of the men had been detained on the strength of various immigration offences.

Mr. Benatta was held incommunicado and denied access to a lawyer; his family in Algeria thought he had disappeared.

Mr. Benatta says he repeatedly had his head slammed against the wall by MDC guards, who also shackled his legs painfully tight. He was left outside in the cold and punished for speaking to other prisoners by being denied food. The lights in his cell were kept on for 24 hours a day.

(Mr. Benatta's description of his abuse is consistent with the findings of a report by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General, which issued a damning assessment of the Brooklyn detention centre in December 2003. The U.S. Justice Department uncovered a videotape that, among other things, recorded repeated and degrading strip searches. The report recommended disciplinary action against 10 individuals for their "abusive" behaviour.)

Mr. Benatta was repeatedly interrogated by FBI agents assigned to the Terrorism Task Force.

"The way they accused me, I thought it was over," he says. "I thought they didn't find nobody who did it and they were just going to accuse me. They would present me to the people that I was the one who did it. I thought that was it: I thought my life was over."

But on Nov. 15, 2001, according to evidence later made public in U.S. District Court, the FBI officially cleared Mr. Benatta of any connection to terrorism.

Yet Mr. Benatta continued to be held in detention. He was subsequently charged with being in possession of false identification: his phony green card and social security number.

He remained incommunicado at the Brooklyn detention centre until April 30, 2002, when he was transferred to a jail in Buffalo, New York, and finally allowed access to a lawyer.

Two years after first being detained, Mr. Benatta's criminal case went before U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Schroeder, who castigated federal prosecutors for their legal "shams" and "ridiculous" delays. The judge said Mr. Benatta had been denied his right to a fair and speedy trial.

Based on a recommendation from Judge Schroeder, the criminal charges against Mr. Benatta were dropped in October 2003.

But Mr. Benatta's ordeal was not over. Since he still did not have legal standing in the U.S., he applied for political asylum; he was kept in immigration detention because U.S. officials considered him a "flight risk."

After his bid for asylum was denied on April 7, 2004, he launched an appeal. He was told he could be released if he posted a $25,000 bond, but Mr. Benatta knew no one with that kind of money in the U.S.

His appeal was denied in September 2004, which meant that Mr. Benatta faced the terrifying prospect of being returned to Algeria. He believed that as a military defector, he would be imprisoned and tortured if sent back.

He appealed his deportation and won a stay of that order in January 2005, but he was not released from custody.

It was about this time that Janet Dench, director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, heard about his ordeal and began to work for Mr. Benatta's return to Canada. The Benatta case had been brought to the attention of the United Nations by the American Civil Liberties Union; his plight had also been written about by the Washington Post.

Ms. Dench began to lobby the Canadian government to recognize its critical role in the case and to make things right for Mr. Benatta.

Canada, she told federal officials, had no legal basis for removing Mr. Benatta and had a moral duty to rescue him from U.S. custody.

"It's extremely, extremely disturbing when you find officials violating the law," she says. "It's one of the most basic things you expect: that the basic requirements of the law will be followed by our officials.

"And in many ways, it's worse when it happens in the heat of the moment, on the 12th of September, because that's exactly when you need laws to be scrupulously respected."

After what she describes as a "long, slow process," Ms. Dench's representations gained traction in Ottawa.

On July 11, 2006, the Canadian government sent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security a curious letter.

Written by a Canadian consulate official in Buffalo, the letter announced that Canada would offer Mr. Benatta a temporary resident permit to allow him re-entry into this country.

In his letter, obtained by the Citizen, Consul Randy Orr confirmed that Mr. Benatta had been detained in Canada on Sept. 5, 2001. His immigration file indicates that Mr. Benatta expressed a desire to seek refugee status in Canada, Mr. Orr said, noting there is no record of such a claim.

"On September 12," Mr. Orr wrote, "Mr. Benatta was returned to the United States. Information on the file indicates this was a voluntary withdrawal. However, there is no documentation to support this, such as a copy of the 'Allowed to Leave' form, as would normally be the case."

Ms. Dench says Canadian officials should be given full credit for coming to Mr. Benatta's aid. "It certainly wasn't a full restitution," she says, "but at least they had the guts to take some action to get him out of detention."

Dressed in a prison jumpsuit and shackled, Mr. Benatta was driven back across the border to Canada on July 20, 2006.

Chris Williams, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), said he could not comment on the Benatta case because it's before the courts. He refused to say if the federal government continues to believe that Mr. Benatta willingly went to the U.S. "We're currently reviewing the allegations and examining the claim," Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Benatta's lawyer, Nicole Chrolavicius, says the Canadian government bears some responsibility for what happened to him.

"They were the instigators of the whole event," she says. "They identified him as a suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and then handed him over without any legal process whatsoever."

Mr. Benatta's case must be fully explored, Ms. Chrolavicius contends, because it stands as the first example of how the Canadian government moved "outside the law" after the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

"He was lifted completely out of the immigration realm, completely out of any thought of extradition, for example, lifted outside of any legal process and stuck in the back of a car and driven over the border," she says. "He was not deported, or removed, or refouled. He was transferred outside the scope of any lawful authority ...This was an illegal rendition."

Mr. Benatta's lawsuit alleges that Canadian officials later attempted to cover-up their misconduct by falsely suggesting that Mr. Benatta withdrew his refugee claim in Canada. The allegations in the lawsuit must be proven in court.

The federal government has yet to file a statement of defence in the case and is attempting to have the matter moved to Federal Court.

For his part, Mr. Benatta wants answers to some fundamental questions. Why was he sent to the U.S. without due process? What did Canadian security officials tell their U.S. counterparts about him? Why did Canadian officials act so rashly when he was already in custody? Why didn't Canadian security agencies do their own assessment of his alleged connections to 9/11? Why did the Canadian government not seek his return until 2006?

"Why throw me in the car like a package and deliver me like I'm nobody?" he asks.

Mr. Benatta now lives on social assistance in Toronto. He has been unable to get work, he says, because his name has been tied to terrorism. He also finds it hard to explain the five-year gap in his resume. He holds out little hope of resuming his career as an aeronautics engineer.

In November, Mr. Benatta finally won his claim for refugee status in Canada -- a milestone he regards as bittersweet.

"After seven years of fighting, that was a relief. I am very grateful to Canada to be provided protection here," he says. "But I can't get on with my life. Not yet."

Sanctuary status sought for temples

No double standard, say Sikh supporters of failed refugee claimant

David Carrigg, The Province

Published: Monday, January 28, 2008

Supporters of failed refugee claimant Laibar Singh are mounting a campaign to ensure Sikh temples continue to offer the same sanctuary a church provides.

"Violating the sanctuary of a gurudwara [temple] while the sanctuary of churches has largely been respected will set a dangerous double standard," Cynthia Wright, of York University's school of women's studies in Toronto, said in a statement.

Singh, who has twice avoided deportation as a result of protests by his supporters, is living in Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh temple in the belief the government will not enter and remove him.

Singh entered Canada on a false Indian passport, then failed in a bid for refugee status. He is paralyzed due a medical condition that occurred while in Canada.

His supporters claim he will die if he is returned to India for lack of medical care.

They staged a rally at the Surrey temple yesterday to pressure the government into not deporting Singh. The rally was backed by protests in 13 other cities across Canada.

Rev. Margaret Marquardt, chairwoman of the justice and peace unit of the Anglican Church, said that granting sanctuary is a "sacred responsibility" and that the government has "no business in the sanctuaries of this nation."

Denise Nadeau, of Simon Fraser University's interfaith summer institute, said: "It is unconscionable that the government continues to insist on the deportation of a paralyzed man from sanctuary, simply to look strong."

A May 2007 report by the House of Commons standing committee on citizenship and immigration recommended that law officials respect the right of churches and other religious organizations to provide sanctuary to those they believe need protection.

Canada Border and Services Agency has not set a deadline for a third attempt at deporting Singh.

Ron Moran, president of the Customs and Excise Union which represents border guards, has said B.C. border guards have been told by managers that Singh will be deported at some point.

Moran said the morale of guards has been affected because of the failed efforts to deport him.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said last week that deportation orders stand, whether or not their subjects are in sanctuary.

"They are in defiance of the law if they are not subjecting themselves to that removal order. That is the state of the situation," Day said.

Court puts hold on refugee pact ruling

Jim Bronskill and Bruce Cheadle, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - The Federal Court of Appeal has put a freeze on a recent ruling that overturned a controversial refugee pact between Canada and the United States.

In a decision Thursday, Chief Justice John Richard said there should be a full airing of arguments before the Safe Third Country Agreement is suspended.

Under the agreement, which took effect in December 2004, Canada and the U.S. recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.

It means Canada can turn back potential refugees at the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

Canadian refugee advocates have vigorously fought the deal, arguing the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Critics say claimants, including children, are often imprisoned for months or even years south of the border while their applications are processed.

In addition, more restrictive American rules and interpretation of who qualifies as a refugee mean that in the past some rejected by the U.S. were later accepted by Canada.

The Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International successfully contested the agreement in Federal Court.

In a November decision, Justice Michael Phelan ruled the federal cabinet exceeded its jurisdiction in adopting the new system, saying the U.S. does not comply with United Nations conventions concerning the status of refugees and prohibition of torture.

He also concluded the return of a refugee claimant to the U.S. from Canada violated Charter of Rights guarantees of equality and life, liberty and security.

The government asked the Court of Appeal to put the ruling on hold, arguing a sudden end to the Safe Third Country Agreement would prompt an influx of refugees into Canada from the United States, overwhelming border officers.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Council for Refugees, was dismayed by the latest decision.

"Obviously we're extremely disappointed and actually shocked that the court would put the administrative convenience of the government over the lives of refugees," she said.

"We know that people do come up to the border, are turned back and end up deported to their country of origin."

Among the council's submissions to the court was an affidavit from a woman whose husband was killed in Honduras after being detained at the Canadian border, sent back to the United States and deported.

Richard noted in his ruling, however, that there was no evidence that the man made a refugee claim in the U.S. or of the circumstances surrounding his deportation.

Still, Dench pointed to the case Thursday as reason to be worried.

"The stakes are really high," she said. "We don't know for sure in coming months whether this will happen to other people. But there's certainly a very real possibility that people will end up being sent back to face persecution, torture or even death."

In 2006, some 400 people were turned away at the Canadian border based on the Safe Third Country provisions.

Dench noted the Court of Appeal has agreed to an expedited review, but the hearing is likely some months away and a decision many months after that.

"It's not a good day."

Despite the ruling Thursday, New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said she would try next week to put a motion before the Commons immigration committee to end the Safe Third Country agreement.

If successful, the motion would go to the full Commons for a vote, potentially pre-empting the coming appeal hearing.

Charkaoui soutient que la preuve est biaisée

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Photo La Presse

Karine Fortin

La Presse Canadienne


Les procureurs d'Adil Charkaoui, qui fait l'objet d'un certificat de sécurité depuis 2003 parce qu'on le soupçonne d'avoir été lié à des organisations terroristes, a argué jeudi devant la Cour suprême du Canada que la preuve contre lui était biaisée.

Me Dominique Larochelle, qui représente le ressortissant d'origine marocaine, a soutenu devant le plus haut tribunal du pays que les services secrets avaient brimé les droits fondamentaux de M. Charkaoui en détruisant les enregistrements et les transcriptions des interrogatoires menés dans le cadre de l'enquête sur lui.

L'avocate de M. Charkaoui affirme par ailleurs que l'enquête du Service canadien du renseignement de sécurité (SCRS) était biaisé et que le ministre de l'Immigration qui a signé le certificat de sécurité en 2003 ne disposait pas de tous les éléments nécessaires pour prendre une décision éclairée.

De l'avis de Me Larochelle, ces manquements justifieraient la révocation du certificat qui a valu 21 mois de détention à son client.

Plusieurs organisations appuient Adil Charkaoui et ont plaidé en sa faveur. C'est notamment le cas de l'Association du Barreau canadien, du Barreau du Québec et d'Amnistie internationale.

La plupart de ces groupes estiment que le SCRS devrait absolument conserver tous les documents, notes et enregistrements susceptibles de servir à incriminer une personne ou de justifier sa détention.

Pour l'avocate d'Amnistie internationale, Vanessa Gruben, il est actuellement impossible pour le juge chargé d'évaluer la pertinence d'un certificat de sécurité de savoir si les renseignements à sa disposition ont été recueillis en ayant recours à des méthodes légales.

Cette question est fondamentale puisque l'histoire prouve que les informations obtenues par des moyens illégaux tels que la torture ne sont pas toujours fiables, a-t-elle expliqué en substance.

Un juge qui se baserait sur de tels renseignements brimerait les droits de l'accusé en plus de contrevenir à plusieurs traités internationaux ratifiés par le Canada, a-t-elle ajouté dans son exposé.

Le procureur général du Canada, représenté par Me Claude Joyal, a répliqué que le SCRS était une entité civile et, qu'en conséquence, sa politique de gestion de l'information devait être différente de celle d'un corps policier.

Il a expliqué que les employés du service pouvaient détruire les documents contenant des informations «inutiles» et «périphériques» dans le but de protéger la vie privée des personnes concernées.

Les renseignements obtenus par le SCRS deviennent en effet publics 20 ans après le décès des individus surveillés.

Il a assuré que cette pratique ne rendait pas les résumés biaisés pour autant.
Le Procureur général de l'Ontario, Me Michael Bernstein, a abondé dans le même sens. Il est allé jusqu'à comparer le SCRS à un hôpital et à une école «qui peuvent parfois se retrouver en possession d'information qui sera un jour utile à une enquête criminelle» mais qui ne sont pas tenus de conserver toutes leurs notes sur tout le monde.

La Cour a pris la cause d'Adil Charkaoui en délibéré. À sa sortie du tribunal, le Montréalais semblait très confiant.

«Je commence à respirer et j'espère que j'aurai justice», a-t-il confié aux médias qui l'attendaient dans le hall de la Cour suprême, à Ottawa.

Son avocate, Me Larochelle, s'est elle aussi dite très optimiste parce qu'elle estime
que le gouvernement a eu beaucoup de mal à justifier son comportement.

«Défendre l'indéfendable, c'est assez difficile. Défendre des politiques du gouvernement qui ne sont pas justifiées, qui ne tiennent pas compte des droits de la personne dans le cadre d'une procédure qui entraîne des conséquences aussi graves pour la vie de la personne, c'est une affaire qui est très difficile», a-t-elle insisté.

Harkat comparaît aussi

Mohamed Harkat sera lui aussi devant les tribunaux aujourd'hui. L'homme d'origine algérienne, mis en liberté sous conditions en mai 2006, a été arrêté mercredi alors qu'il prenait sa douche dans son domicile de la région d'Ottawa. L'Agence des services frontaliers affirme qu'il a violé ses conditions de mise en liberté. M. Harkat contestera cette décision devant la Cour fédérale.

Video: Secret Canada - Security Certificates

To view Part I click HERE

To view Part II click HERE

Les tribunaux se pencheront sur les certificats de sécurité

Le mercredi 30 janvier 2008

Mohammed Harkat (Photo PC)
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Mohammed Harkat
Photo PC
Presse Canadienne
Les certificats de sécurité qui permettent de détenir indéfiniment et sans procès des personnes soupçonnées de terrorisme seront à nouveau débattus devant les tribunaux, jeudi à Ottawa.

La Cour suprême se penchera en effet sur le cas du Montréalais Adil Charkaoui, qui reproche notamment aux services secrets d'avoir détruit les enregistrements de certains interrogatoires auxquels il s'est prêté, d'avoir mené une enquête biaisée et d'avoir omis de présenter certains éléments de preuve au ministre de l'Immigration qui émet les certificats.

L'enseignant d'origine marocaine estime que ces manquements justifient la révocation du certificat dont il est l'objet depuis 2003 et qui lui a valu 21 mois de détention.

La Cour fédérale, qui siège dans le même édifice, entendra pendant ce temps les avocats de Mohammed Harkat, qui a été arrêté mardi, alors qu'il prenait sa douche chez lui. Le ressortissant d'origine algérienne était en liberté surveillée depuis 2006.

Depuis sa sortie de prison, il doit notamment porter un bracelet électronique et être accompagné en tout temps de sa femme, de sa belle-mère, ou d'un autre gardien autorisé.

Les motifs de son arrestation demeurent flous, mais les autorités ont laissé entendre qu'il n'avait pas respecté toutes les conditions que lui avait imposées le tribunal. Ses proches soutiennent pour leur part qu'il est victime de harcèlement.

«Nous considérons que cette arrestation est un prétexte, un moyen d'entretenir l'hystérie contre le terrorisme au Canada.

Ça sert de justification au gouvernement pour adopter une nouvelle loi injuste», a insisté un ami de la famille Harkat, Christian Legeais.

M. Legeais était au Parlement mercredi en compagnie de proches des cinq hommes musulmans visés par des certificats de sécurité et du président du Conseil musulman de Montréal, l'imam Salam Elmenyawi.

Lors d'un point de presse auquel assistait Adil Charkaoui, ils ont officiellement demandé aux députés de tous les partis de voter contre le projet de loi C-3, qui modifie le régime des certificats de sécurité, jugés inconstitutionnels en février dernier.

La loi prévoit entre autres la nomination «d'avocats spéciaux» comme cela se fait déjà en Grande-Bretagne. Ces procureurs auraient accès au dossier secret du présumé terroriste et pourraient donc mettre en doute la pertinence et l'importance des faits allégués lors d'audiences à huis clos. Il ne pourrait cependant discuter de la preuve avec personne, pas même son client.

D'après les proches des personnes visées par des certificats, les changements proposés sont insuffisants et perpétueraient l'injustice et le racisme. «On ne veut pas une justice à deux vitesse», a insisté la mère d'Adil Charkaoui, Latifa Charkaoui.

À l'instar de groupe de défense des droits humains, les proches des personnes visées par un certificat veulent la disparition pure et simple de cette procédure.

Ils affirment qu'on devrait traiter les présumés terroristes «comme des citoyens canadiens» et leur faire un procès formel au lieu de les enfermer sans même leur dire ce qui leur est reproché.

Le Bloc québécois et le Nouveau Parti démocratique ont déjà laissé savoir qu'ils s'opposeraient à la nouvelle législation telle que formulée. Le sort du projet de loi dépend donc du Parti libéral qui n'a pas encore fait connaître sa position.

L'ancien régime disparaîtra automatiquement le 23 février prochain, qu'Ottawa ait réussi à le remplacer ou pas.

Wanted: lawyers to defend accused terrorists

Richard Foot , Canwest News Service

Published: Monday, January 28, 2008

The federal government is having trouble recruiting an experienced pool of lawyers to work as "special advocates" on behalf of terror suspects under Canada's security certificate law.

So far, only 50 lawyers have responded to a month-long, national recruitment campaign by the Department of Justice, aimed at finding a list of experienced practitioners who can defend people facing deportation in secret judicial hearings.

Those 50 applications may be enough from which to find a list of advocates, but they represent only a tiny fraction of the 57,000 practising lawyers in Canada.

Last week, as a result of the poor turnout, the Justice Department extended the application deadline from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1.

"Given the nature of what it is lawyers are being asked to do, it doesn't surprise me that there hasn't been an overwhelming response," says Lorne Waldman, a Toronto lawyer who represented wrongly accused terrorist Maher Arar.

Waldman says many lawyers are deeply conflicted about participating in the controversial system. On the one hand, they feel a duty to ensure people have the best legal defence possible. On the other hand, they consider the law an affront to civil liberties and don't want to lend it legitimacy by taking part.

Some, he says, are worried about being labelled as traitors by colleagues if they participate in the system - an epithet that was thrown at lawyers in Britain who took part in a similar process.

Both the Canadian Bar Association and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada have criticized the proposed security certificate law as unconstitutional.

Security certificates are an extraordinary immigration tool that allows the government to detain and deport foreigners and permanent residents who are considered a threat to national security.

Suspects aren't allowed to see the evidence against them, or participate in the secret judicial hearings to determine their fate.

Three accused terrorists challenged the system at the Supreme Court of Canada, which last year said the law was unconstitutional - but necessary in an age of terrorism - and gave Ottawa one year to reform the law to bring it in line with the Charter of Rights.

The Conservative government hopes to do that with legislation to create special advocates - independent, security-cleared lawyers - to act on behalf of accused persons.

The government says the advocates will be allowed to see the evidence against suspects, but cannot discuss it with them without a judge's explicit permission.

Many critics say that kind of restriction does not satisfy the Constitution and will not allow special advocates to properly defend those accused under the law.

A similar system in the United Kingdom has been harshly criticized by politicians, lawyers and human rights advocates in that country, and also made it difficult for the British government to retain a list of special advocates.

In Canada, "the low number of applications for special advocate positions may stem from concerns about the proposed security certificate legislation, Bill C-3," says Vanessa Gruben, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. "There are concerns among the legal community that the model proposed in Bill C-3 falls short of the constitutional standard set by the Supreme Court."

Waldman says no defence lawyer wants to work in a system that "fundamentally abrogates" the right of an accused to know the evidence against them. He also says that to be effective, special advocates will need skills and experience in the immigration field, plus an understanding of the national anti-terror apparatus.

"It'll be extremely demanding work," he says. "I've talked to some of my close colleagues about whether they're applying. There's a lot of concern about how it's going to operate. But there's also a sense that qualified people should apply, because if we're going to make the system work, we have to have lawyers with experience and commitment on that list."

The current security certificate law will expire next month, unless Parliament passes the new legislation before Feb. 23.

Liberté conditionnelle rompue pour un présumé terroriste algérien

Le mardi 29 janvier 2008

Mohamed Harkat. (Photo PC)
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Mohamed Harkat.
Photo PC

Agence France-Presse
Un Algérien soupçonné de terrorisme a été remis en détention, après avoir été accusé d'avoir contrevenu aux termes de sa libération conditionnelle, a indiqué son avocat à l'AFP.
Click here to find out more!

À consulter aussi
Lisez d'autres articles sur ces sujets :

Peines (88%)

Prison (87%)

Mohamed Harkat (84%)

Actes de terrorisme (76%)

Agence France Presse (75%)

Me Paul Copeland (71%)

Mohamed Harkat a été arrêté chez lui mardi après-midi et emmené dans les locaux de l'agence canadienne des services frontaliers, à Ottawa, d'où il devait être placé dans un centre de détention, en attendant une décision de justice à son sujet, a déclaré Me Paul Copeland à l'AFP.

Il doit être présenté, dans un délai de 48 heures, à un juge de la Cour fédérale qui décidera de son sort.

Selon son avocat, la principale violation qui lui est reprochée est le fait que sa belle-mère, qui est une des garantes du respect des conditions de sa liberation, n'habitait plus en permanence dans la même maison que lui et sa femme.

M. Harkat n'avait cependant jamais été laissé seul dans la maison, a assuré Me Copeland.

«Sa femme était avec lui à la maison lorsqu'il a été arrêté, alors qu'il prenait sa douche», a-t-il dit.

L'avocat avait par ailleurs prévu, avant même l'arrestation de son client, de présenter lundi prochain une demande au tribunal pour que les conditions de sa libération soient assouplies afin de permettre à sa famille de mener une vie normale.

Mohamed Harkat avait été arrêté en décembre 2002 en vertu d'un «certificat de sécurité», une procédure qui permet aux autorités de détenir sans procès des étrangers soupçonnés de terrorisme sur la base d'informations secrètes.

Il avait obtenu en juin 2006 sa libération conditionnelle, mais devait porter un bracelet électronique, demeurer sous la supervision de son épouse ou d'autres membres de la famille et demander l'autorisation pour effectuer des déplacements ou rencontrer une personne.

Mohamed Harkat est soupçonné par le Service canadien de renseignement et de sécurité (SCRS) de faire partie d'une cellule dormante d'Al-Qaeda.