CSIS evidence on terror suspect tainted by torture

Most of the information used to brand an Egyptian refugee as a threat to national security appears to have come from foreign agencies known to torture suspects, documents indicate.

Most of the information used to brand an Egyptian refugee as a threat to national security appears to have come from foreign agencies known to torture suspects, documents indicate.

The three-year-old admission by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service raises questions about the agency's use of tainted material in its current case against Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub and others in his situation.

Mahjoub wants the courts to throw out his national security certificate, which allows the government to detain him indefinitely without charge as a danger to Canada.

Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, 51, an Egyptian accused of terrorist involvement,is asking the court to lift his stringent release conditions. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

"The bulk of the information utilized in Mr. Mahjoub's certificate was supplied by agencies associated to torture," according to a court-ordered summary of CSIS's case obtained by The Canadian Press.

Nevertheless, the agency still pushed for a security certificate to be imposed on Mahjoub and insists he remains a threat to Canada.

The summary is among 18 documents disclosed this year following a February court order to the spy service for information on the reliability of its allegations against Mahjoub.

It was written in response to a request by Jim Judd, then-director of CSIS, for updates on the security certificate cases in advance of a deputy ministers' meeting in January 2008.

Judd wanted to know whether the cases were based on information from a third party with a "possible association" to torture.

In Mahjoub's case, the summary indicates the "bulk" of information was derived from government agencies which use torture, but also notes CSIS agents interviewed him five times.

The document does not name Egypt, where authorities were notorious for human-rights abuses against terror suspects and political opponents.

Documents also show Judd opposed proposed legislative changes that would have barred CSIS from using information believed to have been derived from torture.

In a mid-January 2008 memo to the minister of public safety at the time, Stockwell Day, Judd argued the change would threaten the entire security certificate regime.

"It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the service to confirm whether information is derived from mistreatment or torture," Judd wrote.

"This amendment, if interpreted to mean that 'derivative information' is inadmissible, could render unsustainable the current security certificate proceedings."

In June last year, Federal Court Judge Edmond Blanchard said CSIS had no way to ensure it did not rely on evidence obtained by torture.

But in court this summer, Judd defended his views:

"Because a foreign government or agencies of a foreign government have been ... engaged in torture or cruel and inhumane treatment, that by definition doesn't mean everything that comes from that agency or government is the product of that sort of activity," Judd said.

Publicly, CSIS has said it does not condone torture to deal with threats to national security.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Judd's statements suggest CSIS has relied on evidence obtained from torture "despite its assertions to the contrary."

CSIS maintains Mahjoub was a senior member of an Egyptian terrorist group.

It notes he was sentenced in absentia in Egypt to 15 years on terrorism-related charges -- something Blanchard has ruled was based on information obtained under torture.

Mahjoub, a married father of three who came to Canada in 1995, has spent the past 11 years in prison or under house arrest but is not charged with any crime.

His lawyers have been before Blanchard again this week asking that his onerous release conditions be eased while he fights his security certificate.

Witness "No. 4," a CSIS agent, testified the service had no fresh information but said time had not diminished Mahjoub's threat to national security.

The government also imposed national certificates on four other Muslim foreigners it accused of involvement with terrorism.