Suspected al Qaeda collaborator fights Canada deportation

Mohamed Harkat has been accused of being an al Qaeda sleeper agent.

Toronto: An Algerian immigrant who has been accused of being an al Qaeda sleeper agent continues fighting deportation to his homeland, his lawyer said on Friday.

Mohamed Harkat, who has lived in Ontario since 1995, was arrested in December 2002 on suspicion of being a member of Osama bin Laden`s terrorist network. He has denied the allegations.

Harkat, 42, has never been charged but spent 3 1/2 years in an Ontario jail under controversial anti-terrorism legislation. The measure allows authorities to issue a national security certificate under which non-citizens can be held indefinitely without being charged and be deported, with the government allowed to keep any evidence secret.

Harkat has been under house arrest since his release on bail in 2006.

Lawyer Matthew Webber said Harkat was formally served deportation papers on Friday. In December, a federal judge ruled him a security threat who maintained ties to al Qaeda.

Harkat`s lawyers want the government to stay the deportation order so he can continue his legal challenge to the anti-terrorist security measures being used to deport him.

"While they may be serving the paperwork, we fully expect and are confident the Canadian government respects due process," said Webber. "He`s not going anywhere or being deported until we finish appealing the matter."

Harkat`s lawyers are asking the Federal Court of Appeal to rule on whether the security certificate being used to deport him violates Canada`s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The certificate process, a seldom-used tool for removing non-citizens suspected of terrorism or espionage, was revamped in 2007 after the Supreme Court of Canada declared it unconstitutional. A key change was the addition of special advocates - lawyers who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person facing deportation.

However, the special advocates do their work behind closed doors due to the sensitive nature of the classified information before the court in such cases.

Harkat`s lawyers argue that much of the evidence federal Judge Simon Noel consulted in weighing the validity of the certificate against Harkat remains secret and has never been tested under cross-examination.

Harkat insists he is a refugee who fled strife-torn Algeria and worked with an aid agency in Pakistan before coming to Canada. He also claims he will be tortured if he is returned to Algeria.

Bureau Report