Supreme Court to hear appeals from both sides in Harkat terrorism case
OTTAWA The Supreme Court of Canada will decide just how open the process should be when the federal government wants to deport a suspected terrorist from abroad.
The high court agreed Thursday to hear a challenge of the national security certificate system, a rarely used means of removing non citizens accused of being terrorists or spies.
It will also review crucial issues related to evidence in the case of Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat, arrested 10 years ago next month in Ottawa under a security certificate.
The hearing, likely to take place in 2013, will come more than five years after the Conservative government retooled the certificate regime in an effort to make it consistent with the Charter of Rig ray bans hts and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court will rule whether those reforms went far enough.
Harkat, 44, was arrested in December 2002 on suspicion of being an al Qaida sleeper agent. He denies any involvement in terrorist activities.
The person named in a security certificate receives only a summary of the case against them stripped of supporting information which critics say makes the process wholly unfair.
The validity of a certificate must be weighed by a Federal Court judge, who is allowed to see the secret evidence, and Harkat’s case has been tangled in various legal proceedings for a decade.
In April, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate system, but ruled that summaries of some mid 1990s conversations be excluded from evidence against Harkat because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed the original recordings.
The ruling left both sides unhappy and each asked for a hearing in the Supreme Court an uncommon turn of events. As usual, the high court gave no reasons Thursday for its decision to hear the appeals.
The court will delve into how information from intelligence agencies should be treated in security certificate cases and when the general principle of an open court can give way to sec ray bans ret proceedings in the name of national security.
“These are major, major issues,” said Norm Boxall, a lawyer for Harkat. “So it probably isn’t a surprise that it’s going to return to the Supreme Court of Canada for interpretation, guidance.”
In an interview Thursday, Harkat said he puts “lots of hope and lots of faith” in the judiciary to ultimately declare the certificates incompatible with fundamental guarantees of fairness.
In refashioning the system, the government introduced special advocates lawyers who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person facing deportation.
Harkat’s counsel unsuccessfully argued the pr ray bans esence of advocates did not ensure the constitutionality of the process.
They noted the advocates were permitted to work only with the information presented to them and could not initiate their own investigations even when open source material was at odds with the federal case.
Sophie Harkat, who has waged a vigorous public campaign on her husband’s behalf, said Thursday that quashing the entire certificate process is the only solution.
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