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Federal Court ruled Thursday that a man suspected of being a sleeper agent for the al-Qaeda terrorist network be released on $50,000 bail.

The court's ruling came after Adil Charkaoui's fourth bid for release. It was unclear whether the federal government would appeal the ruling.

Mr. Charkaoui has been held on a national security certificate for nearly two years after being arrested. The certificate, a controversial provision of the Immigration Act, means most of the evidence against him is seen only by the government and the judge.

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Mr. Charkaoui, 31, has rejected any suggestion that he has terrorist links. He faced deportation to his native Morocco.

Justice Simon Noël said in his ruling that Mr. Charkaoui seemed to pose little threat.

"The danger to national security and to the security of others has eased with time. ... I would even say the danger has been neutralized at the time of this evaluation," he wrote.

He also noted the support for Mr. Charkaoui from people in several walks of life, including politics, religion, the labour movement and the arts. Oscar-winning filmmaker Denys Arcand was among those who posted $50,000 in bail for Mr. Charkaoui.

Judge Noël also wrote that Mr. Charkaoui has the emotional and financial support of his family.

"Although it is to be expected that family members rally in these circumstances, the fact remains that their persistence and devotion in the case are edifying and a tribute to them.

"Therein lies a potential sanctuary of calm and possibly of security."

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He also said that Mr. Charkaoui has been in detention for 21 months and that his contact with the outside world during that period has been "extremely limited."

Mr. Charakaoui's sister, Hind, was elated by the news of her brother's release.

"It's incredible," she told Canadian Press. "It's been 20 months of separation."

She said she wavered between optimism and pessimism because her brother had been denied bail three times.

"But this time I had hope, I would say 95 per cent, because my brother took a polygraph test, he testified even though he didn't know what evidence they had against him," she said. "He did everything to get his freedom."

Hind Charkaoui said the family has been flooded with calls of support since she heard the news of her brother's release. She said she was not sure when her brother would be released.

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Simone MacAndrew, a spokeswoman for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said it is unlikely Mr. Charkaoui would be released Thursday.

"Usually the judge says the two parties have to agree on the conditions," she said in an interview from Ottawa. "There might be a delay of a couple of days."

Judge Noël ordered that under the conditions of his bail, Mr. Charkaoui must respect a curfew, stay with his family and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Limits were also placed on whom he can contact and on his use of computers.

Federal Justice Department officials were to hold a conference call later Thursday.

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