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Charkaoui mostly free

Adil Charkaoui removed his GPS tracking bracelet from his ankle for the first
time in four years, after Federal court Judge Daniele Tremblay- Lamer dropped the restrictive bail conditions that have left him living under house arrest since 2005. The decision came midway through Charkaoui’s public hear- ing, held Thursday at the Federal Court in Old Montreal.

A permanent resident, Charkaoui spent two years in prison after he was arrested on suspicions of terrorism in 2003. He was detained under Canada’s security certificate legislation, which permitted the federal gov- ernment to detain him indefinite- ly or even deport him on secret evidence.

The judge’s announcement came in the wake of the federal government’s July 31 admission that the evidence in Charkaoui’s secret file was inadequate. Five months ago, federal lawyers retracted confidential wiretap evidence that had been used to implicate Charkaoui.

Charkaoui emerged from the courtroom flashing the peace sign, and said that he was extremely satisfied with Tremblay-Lamer’s decision. He also asked when the government officials responsible for his two-year detention – and subsequent four-year ordeal – would be held accountable for their mistakes, and the detriment they have caused to his life, reputation, and freedom.

“Today I’m celebrating,” Charkaoui said. “Though I hope we’re all going to talk about accountability.”

Johanne Doyon, Charkaoui’s lawyer, said that the security cer- tificate issued against her client was wholly unreasonable, and that Charkaoui has been severely stigmatized. “Their ‘proof’ is empty,” Doyon said in French. Judge Tremblay-Lamer allowed the federal government the opportunity to lift the security certificate in advance of delivering her ruling. Federal lawyers left the decision to the judge – a move that would allow the government to appeal the decision at a later date.

When hearings resumed on Thursday afternoon, Doyon recounted the federal government’s and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) abuses against Charkaoui. They have been accused of using unreliable evidence and presenting false information in court. Moreover, the government is alleged to have used information acquired under torture, such as evidence gathered from Abu Zubayda, a high level CIA detainee who was subjected to water boarding.

The restrictions imposed on Charkoui have also prevented him from continuing his career as a French teacher these past two years. Though he was released from prison in 2005, he was subject to a strict set of bail conditions that forced his parents to accompany him at all times. He was obliged to wear a GPS tracking bracelet – what he has called his “bracelet of shame” – and forbidden the use of cell phones, fax machines, and the Internet. He was prohibited from travelling off the island of Montreal, and police were permitted 24-hour access to his home.

Despite being denied access to the Internet since 2003, Charkaoui completed his Master’s in French in 2005 and is working toward his PhD.

Tremblay-Lamer’s ruling thus signifies the end of the economic stranglehold faced by Charkaoui’s family, which comes just as he and his wife expect their fourth child.

“This is a huge day,” Charkaoui said.

“After two victories in the Supreme Court, it’s clear this law is against [the Charter and indi- vidual rights].”

Charkaoui’s mother Latifa was also elated by the news.

“We had faith in Allah and con- fidence in the judge – we knew it would happen, and now it has,” she said.

Sophie Harkat, whose hus- band Mohamed Harkat is one of the other four Canadian Arab Muslim men named under security certificates, said she was ecstatic for the Charkaouis.

“It’s fantastic for all security certificate detainees – it gives us hope that we can pull through,” Harkat said.

Harkat had a similar victory last Monday, when the government’s own risk assessment con- cluded that her husband was no longer a threat, and removed most of the conditions currently imposed on him. He must, how- ever, continue to wear his GPS tracking bracelet.

In February 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that security certifi- cate legislation is unconstitution- al, but delayed implementation of the ruling by one year. In the year that followed, the Harper government pushed through new security certificate legislation, Bill C-3, which patched loopholes in older legislation, adding a provision that would allow for a special advocate who would be privy to confidential information, but unable to disclose this information to the detainee.

Legal critics, such as Mohamed Harkat’s lawyer Yavar Hameed, have maintained, however, that this addition does not satisfy the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Quebec Bar Association has argued that security cer- tificates under Bill C-3 remain unconstitutional.