A security certificate against a Montreal man accused by Ottawa of having terrorist ties has officially been declared null and void.
Adil Charkaoui, a married father of three who has steadfastly denied any links to terrorists, said Wednesday he's elated with the judgment.
Federal Court Justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer wrote that the certificate has been quashed and that Ottawa has no right to appeal.
Tremblay-Lamer said the notion of national security is a question of perspective and that grey zones can exist.
'Finally, it's the end of this nightmare,' — Adil Charkaoui
"It's understandable that a disagreement on … one element of the evidence might lead the ministers to believe the court has given more weight to the rights of an individual over the demands of national security," Tremblay-Lamer wrote. "However, this belief is not founded."
The case against Charkaoui began to unravel this summer when Ottawa's lawyers withdrew evidence against him, saying disclosing such information would endanger national security. Government lawyers were seeking permission to appeal the court decision forcing Ottawa to disclose information about the case.
The end result could have widespread implications for the remaining four men the government is seeking to have tossed from the country under the controversial security-certificate legislation.
Charkaoui told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview he has been waiting for six years to officially be a free man again.
"It's a great decision for me, a historical decision and so I'm really happy," Charkaoui said.
"Finally, it's the end of this nightmare."
Conditions removed in September
Tremblay-Lamer removed the remaining conditions against Charkaoui at the end of September, notably one that forced him to wear an ankle bracelet that had enabled the government to track his every move since 2005.
Many of the conditions originally imposed on Charkaoui had already been removed in February, when the judge ruled some of them had become disproportionate given the number of years that had passed since he first faced terrorist allegations.
During a hearing last month, Tremblay-Lamer told lawyers the security certificate would fall as the federal government had failed to meet its burden of proof once the disputed material – gathered through wiretaps – was removed.
Charkaoui is demanding an apology and compensation from the federal government.
Charkaoui is a landed immigrant who was arrested in Montreal in 2003 under security-certificate legislation that allows Canada to expel foreign-born individuals if they are considered a national security risk.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said as of last month that its information was accurate and that Charkaoui, a school teacher and part-time graduate student, is an al-Qaeda sympathizer who should be returned to his native Morocco.
In a recent interview, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said he had concerns about various aspects related to the question of security certificates, including rising legal costs.
"But what I have to do is find a way to ensure that Canadians' safety and security is protected," he said.
Charkaoui was among five men – including four from Ontario – who were facing removal from Canada under the certificates. Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei are all fighting to remain in the country.
There have been recent revelations in the Harkat and Almrei cases that CSIS failed to disclose certain evidence that has raised serious questions about those proceedings.