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Mohamed Harkat

Mohamed Harkat

This story received wide play December 12-14, enough that authorities felt compelled to answer to the charges of secret trials and denial of due process. After claiming the right to arrest terrorist suspects without explanation, CSIS released information which was picked up by the Globe and Mail. Think carefully about what they claim: that information from a U.S. al-Qaeda prisoner was their source. Then look at the methods used to get information from suspected al-Qaeda prisoners. Surely we know that information obtained through torture is unreliable. Not partly unreliable. Totally unreliable. On Dec. 19, while many of us were preparing for the holiday festivities, demonstrators in Los Angeles claimed that more than a thousand Muslims were being detained in California "facilities" -- does the term "concentration camp" ring a bell? Then there was the terrorist hoax in January -- Sheila Steele

Group protests security certificates in Ottawa

Four people have been charged following a demonstration outside CSIS headquarters in Ottawa. The protesters were rallying against the security certificates used to arrest five Muslim men currently being held behind bars.

Similar protests were held in eight other cities across Canada by the so-called costume crusaders. The security certificate system allows Canadian police to arrest and imprison anyone deemed a threat to national security -- without charge or bail.

Mohamed Harkat, is one of the five being held. He's accused of being a sleeper agent for al Qaeda, but his wife said he's innocent and wants him released.

"We're here to tell CSIS that we don't agree with the process and we don't agree with the security certificate. We want to make sure they don't issue any more of those security certificates because that goes against basic human rights, basic justice," Sophie Harkat said.

Sophie was in the news earlier this week when she responded to reports that Maher Arar gave information about her husband and three other Canadians when he was being held in a Syrian jail.

Arar is the Canadian who was returning home from a visit to Tunisia last fall, when he was detained in New York. American authorities deported him to Syria, where he was jailed for a year without charge.

Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, was released earlier this month and returned to Ottawa where he lives with his wife and two children.

Last week, sources told CTV News that Arar was released by the Syrians after providing information about al Qaeda, and four Canadians currently being held in jail.

"I don't know if Mr. Arar has made those comments. I wish that he came out publicly to clear his own reputation and to do it also for the name of these four other men who are suffering through these allegations," Sophie said on Monday.

Along with other protesters, she marched to the Prime Minister's Office to press her demand for the abolition of Canada's security certificate process back in August. Under the system any evidence against the suspected terrorist is withheld from family, friends and even lawyers.


Wife 'ashamed to be Canadian' after husband's arrest

OTTAWA - An Ottawa woman says she feels like a widow now that her husband is in jail awaiting a decision on whether he'll be deported.

Mohamed Harkat was arrested outside his apartment on Tuesday and jailed on suspicion he's connected to terrorist groups.

Mohamed Harkat

On Friday, his wife Sophie said Mohamed, an Algerian refugee, is innocent.

"I'm almost ashamed to be a Canadian right now, the way my husband was arrested with five cops and guns," she said. "I'm somewhat like a widow. You know, one day I have a husband and the next day I don't."

She has had a husband for two years, during which time she said they knew they were being watched. But they believed the surveillance simply had to do with Mohamed's application to become a permanent resident.

Harkat was arrested Tuesday under a security certificate, a rarely-used section of Canadian law allows any foreign national living in Canadian to be arrested and deported if that person is deemed a threat to national security.

The information leading to the certificate is kept secret, even from the accused, and a federal judge decides what should be done, perhaps ordering the person's deportation.

There is no appeal process.

Bruce Engel

Sophie Harkat vows to fight the process, and the Harkat's lawyer wants to see some evidence that Mohamed Harkat is involved with terrorism in any way.

"They're alleging that he's either involved in terrorist activities or associated with terrorist activities, in the past, present or future," said Bruce Engel. "Right now we have not seen one shred, not one iota, of evidence that proves that."

Neither Immigration Minister Denis Coderre nor Solicitor General Wayne Easter, both of whom authorized the certificate, has said much about the case, except that they believe Harkat poses a national security concern.


Wife of Algerian husband tells of phone taps

Mohamed Harkat

Canadian authorities tapped the phone lines of Mohamed Harkat and staked out his house for years before arresting the Algeria native this week, his wife says.

At a news conference, Sophie Harkat said she has still received no official word about the allegations hanging over her husband. Federal Immigration Minister Denis Coderre and Solicitor-General Wayne Easter have signed a rare certificate calling for the deportation of Mr. Harkat as a threat to national security.

Officials have alleged that he has ties to Algerian extremists, the Armed Islamic Group.

Sophie Harkat

Ms. Harkat said her husband worked 20 hours a day pumping gasoline and delivering pizzas. "I knew myself we were" under surveillance, she said. "There were strange cars around my apartment, I could hear a ticking sound on my phone line, and you could just feel it."


CSIS report puts Algerian behind bars

An Ottawa lawyer is hoping to get some answers from Ottawa after his client was arrested as a security threat to Canada.

Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian-born man who has made Canada his home for several years was arrested on Tuesday in Ottawa under a rarely used section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Bruce Engel

The federal government alleges that Mr. Harkat is a security threat to Canada based on security reports it has received from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which alleges that he is either a terrorist himself or associating with terrorists, his lawyer Bruce Engel, told globeandmail.com on Thursday.

Mr. Engel received the certificate co-signed by Solicitor-General Wayne Easter and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre on Monday.

Outside the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr. Easter told reporters he signed the certificate based on security reports he received.

"We were concerned over security matters for the nation," Mr. Easter told reporters outside the House of Commons on Thursday, responding to questions as to why he signed the certificate.

He would not give any details about the case saying it was now before the Federal court.

The federal government will attempt to prove that Mr. Harkat, who is not a Canadian citizen, is inadmissible on the grounds of public security because he is alleged to be either engaged in terrorism or associated with people who engage in terrorism, Mr. Engel said, adding that he has been given no details on the allegations.

The certificate contains no details about the allegations for security reasons, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada told globeandmail.com.

Mr. Engel said a Federal Court judge will review material received from the federal ministers and decide what information can be released to Mr. Engel, possibly as early as Friday.

According to the Immigration Act, an in-camera hearing must be held within seven days of the certificate being handed over to the Federal Court. At the hearing the judge will have to decide based on the evidence received whether the certificate is valid.

If the judge determines that the certificate is reasonable than it becomes "an enforceable order," which means automatic removal of the individual from Canada, the Immigration spokeswoman said.

The Federal court decision cannot be appealed, she said.

Mr. Harkat, who has lived in Canada since the mid-1990s, was given refugee status but was not a permanent resident. He first went to Mr. Engel with immigration problems.

Mr. Harkat, who is both employed and married, is confused by his arrest, Mr. Engel said.

"He categorically denies any involvement any association with any terrorist group or individuals or organizations," Mr. Engel said.

"He denies being a terrorist. He is not a terrorist. He has no idea why he has been singled out in this fashion."


Refugee held after CSIS probe Algerian tied to al-Qaeda

An Algerian refugee with suspected ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden has been arrested in Ottawa as a threat to Canada's national security, government sources said yesterday.

Mohamed Harkat was taken into custody at his apartment by Ottawa police and federal immigration officers. The arrest followed an investigation by CSIS, but no details have been released.

The arrest was carried out after Wayne Easter, the Solicitor-General, and Denis Coderre, the Minister of Immigration, signed a certificate declaring Mr. Harkat a threat to Canadian security due to his terrorist ties.

Mr. Harkat came to Canada a decade ago and was accepted as a convention refugee in 1997. He was applying to become a permanent resident when authorities became concerned he might be linked to al-Qaeda.

He "categorically and unequivocally denies any involvement, association -- direct or indirect --with any terrorist organization," Bruce Engel, his lawyer, said yesterday after visiting Mr. Harkat in detention.

"He denies anything.... He's not a terrorist, he's not involved and he's eager to see how this error could have happened," Mr. Engel said. "He hasn't been given any information or asked any questions that he can even begin to think how this could have happened. He's completely in the dark."

The government intends to present its evidence against Mr. Harkat before a Federal Court of Canada judge, who must decide whether the case is reasonable. If the government succeeds, he faces deportation.

Several Algerians have been arrested for involvement in Islamic terrorism over the past three years, notably Ahmed Ressam, who trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan before returning to Canada and building a bomb.

He intended to detonate the explosives at Los Angeles airport but was stopped by a U.S. Customs officer at the B.C.-Washington border on Dec. 14, 1999. The case exposed gaping holes in Canada's security that the government has since tried to plug.


Bin Laden lieutenant identified suspect in Canada

The "galvanizing" piece of information that led to the arrest of 34-year-old Mohamed Harkat in Ottawa last week was supplied by one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, intelligence sources say.

They say that the name of Mr. Harkat, who worked as a gas-station attendant and pizza-delivery driver in Ottawa, came up during an interrogation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation of Abu Zubaydah, a key member of Mr. bin Laden's inner circle. Mr. Zubaydah's information, which was passed on to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, is considered a crucial element in the investigation of Mr. Harkat.

According to a classified intelligence file, CSIS investigators believe Mr. Harkat is a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell and has spent the past several years preparing for an unspecified terrorist mission in North America. Although few details about his activities have been released, intelligence sources have confirmed that Mr. Harkat worked at a Petro-Canada gas bar directly across the street from a CSIS office.

CSIS spokesman Phil Gibson refused to comment on whether Mr. Harkat may have used this vantage point to learn the identities of CSIS operatives. But an intelligence-community source said Mr. Harkat is suspected of carrying out surveillance operations at a number of locations, including Parliament Hill, where he was reportedly spotted taking pictures from a vehicle.

The source said Mr. Harkat is considered a "high-level player" in the North American terrorist network.

"There have only been a few cases of this magnitude," the source said. "We don't proceed this way against people on the periphery."

Mr. Harkat, who was arrested last week after taking out the garbage at his Ottawa apartment, is at the centre of a closed federal hearing that will determine whether he can be deported to his native Algeria as a threat to national security.

Solicitor-General Wayne Easter said Tuesday that he was confident the investigation into Mr. Harkat had yielded a solid case. "I believe the intelligence information that we had will stand up to the test of the court."

Mr. Harkat's supporters say he is a victim of mistaken identity.

"He is not involved in any terror plots, and he doesn't know any terrorists," said Bruce Engel, an Ottawa lawyer who is representing Mr. Harkat at his federal court hearing. "As far as he's concerned, it's all a big mistake."

According to documents obtained Tuesday, Mr. Harkat came to Canada in 1995 using a forged Saudi passport that he bought in Pakistan for $1,200 (U.S.). According to the CSIS investigative file, this was one of many deceptions Mr. Harkat used to get into Canada and pursue a secret terrorist agenda.

"The Service believes that Mohamed Harkat is an Islamic extremist," the file says. "[He] was and is a member of the bin Laden Network, and that Harkat's role in this terrorist network is exemplified by his actions and intentions.

"The Service believes that Harkat attempted to mask his relationships with individuals in Canada, in part, to dissociate himself from individuals or groups who support terrorism."

Although Mr. Harkat lived a life of near-poverty in Canada, the CSIS file says that was a cover for his true activities. According to the file, Mr. Harkat was a highly connected member of the al-Qaeda network. His best-known associate was Mr. Zubaydah, whom he had known "since the early 1990s."

Mr. Zubaydah, who was arrested last March in Pakistan, has provided key information on al-Qaeda operatives to the FBI. Sources said the naming of Mr. Harkat by Mr. Zubaydah was the "galvanizing factor" behind Mr. Harkat's arrest last week.

In an interview with CSIS agents in 1997, Mr. Harkat denied that he had visited Afghanistan or trained with the mujahedeen. He told the agents that one of his legs was partly paralyzed. "As far as mujahedeen are concerned, Mohamed commented that he cannot walk a kilometre," one of the agents noted.

When Mr. Harkat was confronted about his use of aliases, he replied that he had used them only in Pakistan. "Mohamed commented that aliases are very common in Pakistan and everyone used them," the agent said. "When he met people that he did not trust, he would give them another name."

Mr. Harkat told the agents he owned two cars. One of them was a five-year-old Honda Accord that he was trying to sell for $8,500. The other was a 13-year-old Accord that he used to deliver pizzas. He said the older car was worth about $500. Mr. Harkat told the agents he was on social assistance, but acknowledged that he received money from Yemen.

When he was asked whether he knew Ahmed Said Khadr, a Canadian aid worker who was implicated in the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, Mr. Harkat initially said no. But when pressed by the agents, Mr. Harkat said he he had met him during a visit to Toronto with a friend.

The interview ended on a note of sharp skepticism.

"We know you are not being truthful with us," the agents told Mr. Harkat. "Is there nothing you wish to add or change?"

"No," Mr. Harkat replied.