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Canada Ottawa appeals ruling to nix security certificate in Jaballah terror case

Mahmoud Jaballah speaks to a reporter outside the Federal Court building in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2009.

Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press

The federal government is appealing a judge's decision to strike down a national security certificate against Mahmoud Jaballah, saying she made mistakes in concluding there was no credible evidence he posed a threat to Canada.

It is the latest twist in a saga that stretches back 17 years.

The government alleges the Egyptian-born Jaballah, 54, is a member of terrorist group al-Jihad, an accusation he denies.

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It has been trying to deport him through a national security certificate — a tool for removing suspected terrorists and spies from abroad — but the case has meandered through the legal system for years.

Jaballah arrived with his family in Canada in 1996 using a false Saudi passport. He sought refugee status on the basis he was wanted by Egyptian authorities on charges of inciting violence, and that he would be killed if sent back.

A Canadian Security Intelligence Service investigation led to the first of three security certificates being issued against him, the most recent dating from early 2008.

In May, Federal Court Justice Dolores Hansen ruled the government had not established reasonable grounds to believe that Jaballah is a danger to Canadian security.

She also rejected the assertion he was ever a member of al-Jihad or provided support to the group, which advocates violence against the Egyptian government.

In a notice filed with the Federal Court of Appeal, the government asks that the ruling be overturned and the certificate be upheld. Failing that, the notice says, the case should be sent back to the Federal Court for another look.

Federal lawyers contend Hansen made several errors, including reliance on a higher standard of proof than necessary in weighing the evidence. They also say she undermined the rule of law by failing to provide reasons for her April 2014 decision to disallow introduction of additional evidence.

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The government believes "important legal issues" arise from the Federal Court decision that warrant an appeal, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

The challenge comes as the government grapples with fallout from the case of Aaron Driver, an Ontario man with jihadist sympathies who was killed this week during a confrontation with police.

The Canadian-born Driver was living under a court-ordered peace bond intended to limit his activities — he was barred from using the Internet or possessing explosives, conditions he apparently breached.

Security certificates were long the government's tool of choice for containing foreign-born terror suspects, but it has proven difficult to deport several individuals, while other cases have collapsed in court.

Many civil libertarians say security certificates are fundamentally unfair because the subject is given only an unclassified summary of the case — unlike a criminal trial in which there must be full disclosure. However, a special security-cleared lawyer is appointed to protect the interests of the person named in the certificate.

The Supreme Court has upheld the process as constitutional.

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The security certificate regime continues to be an important element of Canada's immigration framework, Bardsley said.

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