Judge describes raid on Harkat's home as 'most intrusive'

Last month's raid on accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat's home by Canadian border agents was 'the most intrusive,' a Federal Court judge said Wednesday.

Last month's raid on accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat's home by Canadian border agents was "the most intrusive," a Federal Court judge said Wednesday.

Justice Simon Noel, presiding over a hearing on the legality of the raid, said "fairness has to prevail" and mused that the agents went too far in seizing items such as family photos.

He said the search by the Canada Border Services Agency was "the most intrusive and I don't think it's anything anyone wants in their life."

He suggested officials may have been trying to psychologically derail Harkat before an important court date.

The former pizza delivery man and gas station attendant was released on bail in 2006 after being held for 3½ years without trial under a national security certificate.

Denies involvement

Harkat, an Algerian refugee whom the Canadian spy agency CSIS accuses of having ties to terrorist organizations, has denied 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.

In the raid, 16 officers and three police dogs spent six hours combing through the belongings of Harkat and his wife, Sophie.

They seized keys, a computer and anything that contained Arabic writing, including family photos.

CBSA supervisor Jasmine Richard, who planned the search, told the court the sole purpose was to determine whether Harkat was complying with his bail conditions. 

But a series of emails between CBSA managers show the agency wanted to gather information for a court-ordered risk assessment.

The assessment would be used at a hearing on whether Harkat should be detained under a security certificate.

One email was from a CBSA counter-terrorism analyst who wrote, "the results of this search will be very important for Harkat's forthcoming risk assessment."

The analyst went on to advise officials to get as much material as possible so it could be fed back to national headquarters for forensic analysis.

Lawyers for Harkat have challenged the legality of the search and accused the agents of going on a fishing expedition.