Federal officials conducted an unlawful fishing expedition last month when they raided the home of Mohammed Harkat, an Algerian refugee whom the Canadian spy agency accuses of having ties to terrorist organizations, his lawyers said Tuesday.
"If you want to get into a seizure like that, as far as I'm concerned, you've got to go get a warrant," said Matt Webber, co-counsel for Harkat.
"And they didn't have that kind of authorization."
On Tuesday, Canada Border Services Agency supervisor Jasmine Richard, who led the search of Harkat's home by police and border agents, testified in Federal Court.
The search involved 16 officers and three sniffer dogs — trained to find weapons, explosives and money, respectively.
Richard said her goal was to determine whether Harkat was complying with his bail conditions. The former pizza delivery man and gas station attendant was released on bail in 2006 after being held for three and a half years without trial under a so-called national security certificate. He denies any involvement with terrorism.
As part of his stringent bail conditions, Harkat wears a GPS device, his phone is tapped, his home is under video surveillance, and all visitors and mail to his home are screened.
The court heard that during the raid, officers seized anything written in Arabic.
Harkat's lawyer asked why border officers took a photo album.
Richard said there was Arabic writing on the back of the photos, and she wanted to make sure there was no information on them related to jihad, or "holy war" against enemies of Islam, and that they were not being used as a form of communication.
"[Communication] can include a lot of things" from verbal conversation to written notes, she said.
Officers also seized keys found under a pile of underwear belonging to Harkat's wife, Sophie. The keys lock a door to the basement where Sophie keeps a computer that is off-limits to her husband.
At the time of the search, Sophie Harkat was taking a shower.
Richard said keeping the keys in the bedroom where Mohamed Harkat could have found them might constitute a breach of his bail conditions.
But Webber asked what Sophie should do with the keys when she's naked in the shower.
Richard replied she has seen Sophie wear keys on a string around her neck.
Webber characterized the search as a fishing expedition that violated Harkat's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"You're talking about policing someone's right to have information," Webber said.
The government is trying to deport Harkat back to his native Algeria. Arguments about the security certificate's validity are to be heard during court proceedings this spring.