Canada's War on Islam: The Case of Mohamed Harkat

Stephen Lendman

Sophie and Mohamed Harkat. July 2006. © Darren Ell

Like in America post-9/11, Canadian Muslims have been victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, and activism. They've been targeted, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence, convicted or incriminated on bogus charges, given long sentences and incarcerated as political prisoners or deported to certain torture, imprisonment or death by so-called democratic countries that, in fact, mock the rule of law and judicial fairness.

Victims are pawns in the war on terror - how rogue states intimidate populations to accept foreign wars and homeland repression to mask their more sinister agenda. Today, it reflects unbridled militarism, permanent wars, imperial conquest, and planned economic crises causing lost jobs, homes, benefits, futures, and the greatest ever wealth transfer to the rich, largely below the radar.

In her 2005 paper, "Securing Canada: Muslims and the Myth of Multiculturalism in the post-911 World," Samantha Arnold discussed the environment as defined by Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act and the Canadian-US Smart Border Declaration, saying:

"....Arab and Muslim Canadians have been 'painted with the bin Laden brush,' cast as terrorists, interrogated and detained on the basis of secret evidence, subjected to hate crimes, denied passage across international borders, represented in racist and demeaning ways in the media, and constructed as 'aliens' in Canada notwithstanding their citizenship (or legal residency) status."

It flies in the face of the country's image as a tolerant, compassionate society, embracing diversity and multiculturalism - the very "foundational myth of this country, a mythical heritage of tolerance that turns on the historical reconciliation of French, English, and Aboriginal peoples." In fact, the reality unmasks the mythology, Mohamed Harkat one of many prime examples, an innocent man victimized for political advantage, so far denied due process and judicial fairness.

Detailed information about him can be found at

Algerian born, he emigrated to Canada in 1995 at age 28, settled in Ottawa, worked as a gas station attendant and pizza delivery man, met his future wife, and now together seek justice and an end to their ordeal.

In 1997, he got refugee status after successfully arguing that Algerian authorities would persecute him. Could he have imagined in Canada as well - nominally democratic with its Charter of Rights and Freedoms stating:

"Everyone has the following freedoms:

a. freedom of conscience and religion;

b. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

c. freedom of peaceful assembly; and

d. freedom of association."

Its Article 7 assures everyone

"the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right not to be deprived thereof in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

By persecuting the innocent, Canada like America, defiles its principles, laws, and fundamental human rights and values - a clear sign of emerging fascism under which all rights are lost. No one is safe when state power goes unchallenged, the fast track both countries now pursue, inventing threats to advance it while destroying civil liberties and freedom.

Harkat was victimized, his nightmare beginning on December 10, 2002 - Human Rights Day worldwide to commemorate the 1948 UN General Assembly's adoption of Universe Declaration of Human Rights adoption, 48 - 0 with eight abstentions, from Stalinist Russia, Eastern bloc states he controlled, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Based on alleged terrorist links to Al Qaeda and the Armed Sayyaf Group (GIA), Harkat was arrested and imprisoned for the next four and a half years under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provision pertaining to the "security certificate" process. It lets authorities detain and/or deport foreign nationals and other non-citizens suspected of human rights violations, alleged threats to national security, or claimed affiliation with organized crime, using secret evidence withheld from defense counsel.

In place since 1978, the process is secretive and disturbing in cases where alleged charges are determined too sensitive to disclose. Since 1991, 27 residents have been affected. In February 2007, Canada's Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in Charkaoui v. Canada.

Then in October 2007, the Canadian House of Commons passed Bill C-3 (a so-called anti-terror measure), amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by introducing a special advocate into the certificate process on the pretext of protecting subjects during secret proceedings.

That and other provisions are troubling, including indefinite detentions, whether or not charged, draconian house arrest with continuous monitoring and surveillance, and deportations to despotic states, ensuring torture, imprisonment or death, the reason subjects fled to Canada in the first place, believing they'd be safe.

The special advocate provision is reprehensible, providing legal cover for a fundamentally unjust process designed to stigmatize, vilify, convict or deport targets to oblivion - at the same time pretending it protects national and public security.

The bill mocks the rule of law and judicial fairness, yet got Royal Assent on February 13, 2008. It targets human and civil rights advocates, anyone against illegal wars and homeland repression, and creeping fascist governance. It denies their presumption of innocence and right to judicial fairness in open proceedings with full disclosure of the facts.

Once issued, Federal Courts conduct secret proceedings, subjecting victims to draconian injustice. Later they're given unclassified summaries of whatever the presiding judge considers appropriate, another fundamentally troubling procedure to withhold vital facts from the defense.

During proceedings, special advocates represent authority, not subjects. They may examine government claims, cross-examine witnesses, call their own, make submissions to the Court, and communicate with and hear testimony from named subjects until they see the Court-opproved information and can rely on counsel.

The government claims it's to defend national and public security, as well as core principles under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, international law, and fundamental human rights precepts. Victims like Harkat disagree, saying it persecutes innocent residents like himself, for his religion and ethnicity, the common American practice supplemented by racist media-hyped fear.

Harkat is one of Canada's Secret Trial Five - five Muslim men, bogusly arrested, then shamelessly persecuted for political advantage. He wasn't charged, was imprisoned on secret evidence, denied bail, held mostly in solitary confinement, prevented from contacting family or friends, and under Canadian law can't appeal a judge's ruling by order of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Yet he was never before charged, convicted of a crime, or even suspected of one.

On March 31, 2004, Amnesty International (AI) directed an open letter to Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, expressing grave "concerns with respect to the security certificate provisions that have been part of Canada's immigration legislation for a number of years" - a process "resulting in violations of a number of fundamental human rights."

AI urged that "immediate steps (be taken) to bring (the process) into full compliance with Canada's international human rights obligations." It cited Canada's responsibilities under its Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in s. 3(3)(f), requiring the law to be "construed and applied in a manner that complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is a signatory."

No action was taken. Harkat and others remain vulnerable.

On May 23, 2006, he was granted bail, transferred to house arrest under electronic monitoring and round-the-clock supervision, but faces deportation he's struggling to prevent.

Last September, Justice Simon Noel eased his bail conditions, ending his phone monitoring, mail, curfew, in-and-outside home video surveillance, and requirement that visitors need official approval. He must still wear a GPS monitor, report in weekly, and travel unsupervised only in the Ottawa area.

Two Hopeful Signs

In October, the Federal Court of Canada annulled Adil Charkaoui's security certificate, another bogusly targeted victim. Arrested but not charged in 2003, he was kept under draconian house arrest for nearly two years, then very restrictive bail conditions until February 20, 2009. On March 24, 2010, he sued the federal government for $24.5 million in damages to restore his lost reputation. The case against him was never disclosed.

In December 2009, the Federal Court voided Hassan Almrei's security certificate, Justice Richard Mosley stating:

"Having considered all the information and other evidence presented to the Court, I am satisfied that Hassan Almrei has not engaged in terrorism and is not and was not a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe has, does or will engage in terrorism. I find that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that (he's) a danger to the security of Canada (so) find the the certificate is not reasonable and must be quashed."

Final Comments

On April 1, the Ottawa Citizen's Mohammed Adam headlined, "Harkat terror case takes a serious hit," saying:

"US report says his reputed al-Qaeda associate (Abu Zubaydah) actually had no ties to the terrorist group."

Writing in the Los Angeles Times on April 30, his co-counsel, Joseph Margulies, assistant director of Northwestern School of Law's Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, detailed what he endured, appalling torture from the time of his 2002 arrest in Pakistan - how America treats alleged terrorists, inflicting enough pain to force confessions, then saying they came voluntarily to convict.

The Bush administration called him a senior Al Qaeda figure, George Bush saying he was one of their "top three leaders (and) chief of operations."

"First, they beat him. As authorized by the Justice Department and confirmed by the Red Cross, they wrapped a collar around his neck and smashed him over and over against a wall. They forced his body into a tiny, pitch-dark box and left him for hours. They stripped him naked and suspended him from hooks in the ceiling. They kept him awake for days."

Then they waterboarded him 83 times - the procedure inducing suffocation and panic. CIA torturers ordered him wrung dry, perhaps taking him to the brink of death and back, what was done repeatedly to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, the bogusly charged 9/11 mastermind who endured intense torture over an extended period, effectively turning him to mush and getting him to say anything to stop the pain.

In Zubaydah's case, he "was nothing like what the president believed. He was never Al Qaeda," journalist Ron Suskind asserted in his 2006 book, "The One Percent Doctrine", the first to describe him as "a minor logistics man, a travel agent," a man the Justice Department later admitted in an April 2010 court filing had no "direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001," nor was he an Al Qaeda member or "formally" identified with the organization.

Yet the Obama administration still detains him, claiming he "supported enemy forces and participated in hostilities (and) facilitat(ed) the retreat and escape of enemy forces" after America's 2001 Afghanistan invasion, charges as bogus as about Al Qaeda and his involvement in 9/11.

Detained or free, he sustained permanent damage. "Abu Zubaydah paid with his mind" and more. "Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures."

He can't remember his mother's face or father's name. His humanity was willfully destroyed, the same fate many others endured - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Jose Padilla, and Aafia Siddiqui three of the most prominent.

One of Harkat's lawyers, Norm Boxall, called the new Zubaydah information significant, saying it destroys a key part of the government's case. Zubayah's attorney, Brent Mickum, said the:

"government's accounts frequently have been at variance with the actual facts, and the government has been loath to provide the facts until forced to do so." Then after gotten through discovery, "it realized that the game was over and there was no way it could support the Bush administration's baseless allegations."

Canadian government lawyers have the information, but so far haven't commented on how it impacts their case or what's next.

Harkat's lawyers called it another plus for their client, saying it "follow(ed) the February release from US custody of Hadje Wazir, a Harkat associate whom CSIS has characterized as Osama bin Laden's 'money handler.' Last year, the case was rocked by the revelation that three CSIS witnesses failed to reveal that a key informant failed a lie-detector test."

Yet CSIS claims Harkat was a Zubayah "intermediary," even though it's untrue, and he denied in federal court in 2004 that he ever met or knew him.

"The new information came to light in court the same day that defence (sic) lawyer Matt Webber blasted the credibility of CSIS, accusing it of 'egregious breaches' of Harkat's rights that bring into question the administration of justice," citing numerous abuses including:

"violation of solicitor-client privilege;

="#712F26">● unlawful detention;

destruction of documents and unlawful search; and

seizure of documents," calling all of them "profound," showing Canadian justice is just as tainted, shameful, odious, and reprehensible as America's.

Nonetheless, Harkat's struggle continues. Closing arguments in his security certificate hearing are scheduled from May 31 - June 3 at the Supreme Court of Canada Building, 301 Wellington Street, East Courtroom in Ottawa, beginning at 10AM. It may be months before a final decision is announced.


Stephen Lendman: I was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. Raised in a modest middle class family, attended public schools, received a BA from Harvard University in 1956 and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of PA in 1960 following 2 years of obligatory military service in the US Army. Spent the next 6 years as a marketing research analyst for several large US corporations before becoming part of a new small family business in 1967, remaining there until retiring at the end of 1999. Have since devoted my time and efforts to the progressive causes and organizations I support, all involved in working for a more humane and just world for all people everywhere, but especially for the most needy, disadvantaged and oppressed. My efforts since summer 2005 have included writing on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. Also co-hosting The Global Research News Hour, occasional public talks, and frequent appearances on radio and at times television.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site and listen to The Lendman News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.


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