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Former security certificate detainee Mohamed Harkat waits for a news conference on his situation to start in Ottawa Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. (TOM HANSON)
Former security certificate detainee Mohamed Harkat waits for a news conference on his situation to start in Ottawa Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. (TOM HANSON)

Globe editorial

A terror conundrum becomes manageable Add to ...

Security certificates have a secure future in Canadian law, after the group of decisions last week about Mohamed Harkat by Mr. Justice Simon Noel of the Federal Court of Canada, though the enduring conundrums around the certificates mean that they will not often be used.

The judge concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Harkat, an Algerian citizen, has been a terrorist and indeed that his behaviour in Canada is consistent with his being a sleeper agent.

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The federal government should now work hard to enter into an agreement with the Algerian government, to make sure that, once Mr. Harkat is deported to his native country, he will not be killed, tortured or otherwise unjustly treated. The British have successfully made such an agreement for the return of terrorists and terror suspects to Jordan, with the highest level of assurance, that is, a commitment by King Abdullah.

It is not fanciful to believe that Mr. Harkat would be in some danger after his return. For a decade, the left-wing, secularist, military-based government of Algeria savagely repressed Islamists, after it cancelled a parliamentary election in which the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round, in December, 1991. The activities that make Mr. Harkat suspect took place mostly in Pakistan, where he had links to Osama bin Laden, Ahmed Said Khadr and al-Qaeda, but it is likely that he would be regarded with hostility by the authorities in his own country.

Indeed, the young Mr. Harkat was a supporter of the ISF, before he left Algeria in 1989. The ISF does not appear to have been a terrorist organization, but it was certainly Islamist and became far more odious to the ruling regime, as it turned out, after Mr. Harkat’s departure.

If no trustworthy arrangement can be made with the Algerians for Mr. Harkat’s future treatment, then the second best course would be the continuation – indefinitely, if need be, though with reviews from time to time – of the rigorous bail conditions to which Mr. Harkat is subject, including an electronic ankle bracelet to reveal his whereabouts at any given time. His use of computers is restricted and he is also forbidden to use cellphones.

Mr. Justice Noel’s just ruling has shown that Canada is not helplessly trapped between those who present a risk of terrorism and the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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