Judge grants bail in security-certificate case

A federal judge has granted bail to Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian-born Ottawa man detained for more than three years under one of the controversial national security certificates.

A federal judge has granted bail to Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian-born Ottawa man detained for more than three years under one of the controversial national security certificates.

Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson ruled on Tuesday that if Harkat agrees to strict conditions, he can be released from prison under a $35,000 bond.

Harkat was arrested in December 2002 after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service accused him of being an al-Qaeda "sleeper agent." CSIS alleged that he trained under Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants in Afghanistan.

He is one of several men who were detained under the security certificates, which spurred nationwide controversy because they let the federal government hold people suspected of posing a threat to national security indefinitely without charge.

Harkat's lawyers had asked the Federal Court to order Harkat released from prison while he waits for officials to determine whether he will be deported from Canada.

Dawson found that there had been an "unexplained delay" in the deportation process that caused Harkat to languish in jail for longer than necessary.

In the court decision, it states that the strict bail conditions will "neutralize" any threat posed by Harkat's release.

In a previous application for bail in the Federal Court in December 2005, the judge was not convinced that the deportation decision would take an unreasonable length of time.

Faces strict bail conditions

Under the conditions of his release, Harkat must:

  • Live with his wife, Sophie Harkat.
  • Follow a curfew.
  • Allow police to enter his home at any time without a warrant.
  • Wear an electronic bracelet that monitors his movements.
  • Report to the Canadian Border Services Agency several times a week.
  • Never use e-mail, cellphones, or BlackBerrys or other portable devices.
  • Not visit the airport, train station, bus depot or any car rental agency.

Wife says Harkat sounds 'wonderful'

Sophie Harkat said she broke the news to her husband over the phone.

"The sound of his voice sounded wonderful and I can't wait to have him home," she said.

But while she said she was relieved by the judge's decision to release her husband, she worried about how stressful the strict conditions would be for the family.

Harkat was recently moved from a jail in Ottawa to a new facility built near Kingston, Ont., to house suspects being held under the security certificates.

Top court to rule on security certificates in June

Harkat arrived in Toronto in 1995 from Malaysia, using a fake Saudi passport. He applied for refugee status claiming a fear of persecution by the Algerian government.

He moved to Ottawa, married and worked most recently delivering pizzas and pumping gas. His refugee status was granted in February 1997 and he applied for permanent residence the next month.

The Federal Court of Canada was guided in Tuesday's ruling by a decision in 2005 to temporarily release another man also held on a security certificate.

Adil Charkaoui, who was born in Morocco,spent two years in custody before he was released with strict conditions.

Harkat and Charkaoui are both among cases to be considered in June, when the Supreme Court of Canada is to make a ruling on whether the security certificate process is constitutionally valid.