Harkat appeal to be heard by Canada's top court
Decision extends decade-long legal saga for Ottawa man
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear appeals from both parties in the case of former Ottawa pizza delivery man Mohamed Harkat — an Algerian refugee accused of links to terrorism.
In its decision Thursday, Canada's top court granted an appeal, extending a legal saga that has dragged for almost 10 years.
As usual, the high court gave no reasons for it's decision.
Harkat, 44, was arrested almost a decade ago in Ottawa on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. He denies any involvement in terrorism.
In April, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate system being used to deport him.
But the same Appeal Court ruled that summaries of some mid-1990s conversations be excluded from evidence against Harkat because CSIS destroyed the original recordings. It ordered the Federal Court to take another look at the certificate in this new light.
The ruling left both sides unhappy and each has asked for a hearing in the Supreme Court — an uncommon turn of events.
Harkat lives at home with his wife, Sophie, but wears an electronic tracking bracelet on his ankle, must check in with authorities regularly and cannot leave town without permission.
"It's been a tremendous ordeal," Norm Boxall, a lawyer for Harkat, told The Canadian Press. "It's been a very long time."
Security certificate program reworked
In 2007, the Supreme Court struck down the certificate regime, forcing the government to revamp the process to make it fairer to detainees.
The government reissued certificates against Harkat and others in early 2008 after a retooling that included the addition of special advocates — lawyers who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person facing deportation.
In the Federal Court of Appeal, Boxall unsuccessfully argued the presence of advocates did not ensure the constitutionality of the process.
He said they were permitted to work only with the information presented to them and could not initiate their own investigations — even when open source material was at odds with the federal case.
The top court's decision Thursday sets the stage for renewed arguments over the written summaries of recorded conversations and the significance of destruction of the original tapes.