Charkaoui witness recants, reporter tells court

A Montreal reporter said in Federal Court on Wednesday that one of the main witnesses against Adil Charkaoui has withdrawn his allegations against the accused al-Qaeda sleeper agent.

A Montreal reportersaid inFederal Court on Wednesday that one of the main witnesses against Adil Charkaoui has withdrawn his allegations against theaccused al-Qaeda sleeper agent.

Journal de Montreal's Fabrice de Pierrebourg was subpoenaed to appear at the court hearing launched by Charkaoui, who is trying to have his strict bail conditions quashed.

Last year, de Pierrebourg noticed one of the main witnesses against Charkaoui, convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam, had withdrawn accusations against another Montrealer being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The reporter wrote to Ressam to ask whether he held to his accusations against Charkaoui, including that he met him at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.

That allegation was one of the main reasons Charkaoui was arrested on a federal security certificate. He was jailed for 21 months under the terms of the security certificate, but released on strict bail conditions in February 2005.

Ressam, an Algerian-born Montrealer, was arrested in 1999 while trying to cross the B.C.-Washington border with a bomb intended for Los Angeles International Airport. In exchange for a lighter sentence, Ressam agreed to co-operate with authorities, providing information on other suspected terrorists.

In a return letter to de Pierrebourg, written in Arabic, Ressam retracted all his allegations against Charkaoui. He said he was psychologically unbalanced when he was interrogated by Canadian security agents.

Charkaoui's lawyers are hoping that letter is enough to get the judge to lift the strict bail conditions he has been living under since February 2005.

He must be supervised at work and accompanied by one of his parents all other times. He cannot use the internet and police are permitted to enter his home at any time without a warrant.

His lawyers were also expected to argue that the leak of a classified report, published in Montreal's La Presse in June 2007, violates his charter rights and constitutes an abuse of procedures.

The report cited a Canadian Security Intelligence Service document that alleges Charkaoui followed two al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, and in 2000 talked about plans to fly a plane into a building in Europe with another man, Hisham Tahir.

Charkaoui admits knowing Tahir, but denies being part of any terrorist plot. He's accused the federal government of leading a smear campaign against him by leaking classified information even his lawyers haven't seen.

Charkaoui's lawyer, Johanne Doyon, has said the publication of the document violates federal law.

Charkaoui, a 33-year-old French teacher, has called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to launch an inquiry to investigate how CSIS handled the security certificates, and also wants the police to intervene.

The country's top court has already struck down the security certificates in a groundbreaking decision released in February 2007 that determined they violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the court suspended the ruling for 12 months, to allow the government enough time to rewrite security laws, effectively meaning the security certificates are valid until further notice.