22
January
2013

Ten years after his arrest, security certificate detainee Mohamed Harkat has something to look forward to.

Mr. Harkat's case will become the first to test the constitutionality of Canada's revised security certificate law as it moves to a hearing before the Supreme Court.  

On November 22, the Supreme Court of Canada declared it would hear appeals from the Algerian-born Ottawa resident and the government, most likely in the fall of 2013.

“I'm confident,” Mr. Harkat replied when asked how he felt about the outcome of the appeals.  “I have big hopes in the Supreme Court,” he stated.

His wife is similarly optimistic. “It's unfortunate that we've had to go through two certificated and the federal court of appeal, but for me ”“ the ultimate justice comes in the hands of the highest court,” Sophie harkat told reporters.

Mr. Harkat's attorneys have long stated that the government's use of the security certificate process is profoundly unfair because Harkat still doesn't know the exact detail of the allegations against him. 

In April 2012, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificates, but also ordered Federal Court Justice Simon Noel to reconsider his conclusion that Mr. Harkat's continuing presence in Canada was a security threat. 

The provision that is most attacked by Mr. Harkat and his supporters is the “special advocates” clause, which allows individuals aligned with the government to be privy to secret government evidence.  The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in April that the use of such advocates is constitutional.  

These “special advocates” are government appointed agents who must consult with the same judge who upheld the certificate to talk to the detainee.  “Special advocates” are supposed to be security-cleared lawyers who are allowed to attend closed hearings where they can hear government evidence and ostensibly protect the rights of the accused.

However, a key component of the “special advocates” role is that they are forbidden from communicating with the detainees or their ordinary legal counsel about the confidential information that is divulged to them in secrecy.

Mr. Harkat was arrested outside his Ottawa home on Dec. 10, 2002 for allegedly operating a safe house for extremists in Pakistan. He was 19 years old at the time. His ten year ordeal has been marked by 43 months of imprisonment followed by three and a half years of the harshest bail and house arrest conditions imposed in Canadian history.

His family put up $100,000 to guarantee his release condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device at all times, remain under 24-hour supervision (even while at home). He also had to inform authorities 48 hours in advance if he planned on leaving his home and had to submit the names of people he planned on seeing.

Those bail conditions were eased in September 2009. Two years later, the government issued a security certificate against him and served him with a notice of deportation.

Even now, Mr. Harkat cannot use the internet, cannot use a telephone outside the house and must receive special permission to leave Ottawa. Mrs. Harkat says officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency are constantly parked outside their home

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My name is Noman Bajwa. I have been involved in the journalistic profession, on and off, since 1987. I graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and received a Master’s degree in Journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia. I was a reporter for several newspapers in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, for fifteen years. I served in the position of Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR's national office in Washington, DC from 2005 to 2007. I have been a contributor to the Muslim Link since its inception in 2004.