Mohamed Harkat leads challenge of national security certificates in high court

OTTAWA – Mohamed Harkat, an Ottawa man dogged by accusations of terrorist ties for more than a decade, heads to the Supreme Court of Canada today to challenge the constitutionality national security certificates.

In a submission to the Supreme Court, Harkat’s lawyers argue the process is inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it provides scant information about the allegations he faces.

Almost 11 years after his arrest, the former gas station attendant and pizza delivery man “is still unaware of the substance of these very serious allegations,” says the filing.

The Supreme Court proceeding will decide just how transparent the process should be when the government wants to deport a non-citizen who is branded a threat to national security.

The high court agreed last year to hear a challenge of the security certificate system from Harkat, an Algerian refugee.

During a rare closed-door hearing Friday, it will also review key issues related to evidence in the case of Harkat, taken into custody under a certificate in December 2002 on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent.

Harkat, 45, denies any involvement in terrorist activities.

He resides in Ottawa with wife Sophie and was recently allowed to remove an electronic tracking bracelet from his ankle. However, Harkat must check in with authorities regularly.

Two other men — Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Mahjoub, both originally from Egypt — could face removal from Canada in long-running certificate cases.

The person named in a security certificate receives only a summary of the case against them, stripped of supporting details to protect sensitive security sources and methods.

The government contends the process is consistent with the guarantee of fundamental justice under the charter.

“The security certificate scheme provides a substantial substitute for full disclosure and allows the named person to know and respond to the ministers’ case,” says a federal submission.

“Mr. Harkat is not entitled to any particular process, only one that satisfies the principles of fundamental justice.”

The government maintains that a 2007 retooling of the security certificate regime remedied flaws that led the Supreme Court to strike down an earlier incarnation of the process.

In particular, the government introduced special advocates — lawyers with access to secret material who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person singled out in the certificate.

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