While it is certainly heartening to see that the courts have ruled against the certificates in these cases, it is after a very long time. Almrei was after arrested in 2001! He was only released earlier this year under strict monitoring conditions. As with the case of Maher Arar much of the evidence seems to be circumstantial and not backed up or even verified. No one ever seems to suffer as a result of this sloppy work. The taxpayer ended up shelling out millions to Arar but probably the people held on security certificates will not be able to get any compensation. No one in the CSIS will suffer at all. If the Arar case is any precedent some of the players may be promoted!
Back to Man hounded by Ottawa loses 'terrorist' tag at last
Man hounded by Ottawa loses 'terrorist' tag at last
December 15, 2009
"I cannot describe how happy I am," Syrian native Hassan Almrei said Dec. 14, 2009 after a judge threw out the security certificate against him.
Hassan Almrei, pegged by CSIS after 9/11 as a terror suspect linked to the "Bin Laden network," celebrated the defeat of the federal government's deportation case against him by having a drink, a non-alcoholic one, with his Toronto lawyers.
Meanwhile, his team of lawyers toasted victory with champagne: "This is a huge decision," said lead lawyer Lorne Waldman.
On Monday, more than eight years after Almrei's arrest, a Federal Court of Canada judge threw out the security certificate against him, concluding the evidence – both secret and public – against the Syrian native does not hold up to scrutiny.
In a landmark ruling, Justice Richard Mosley declared "unreasonable" the security certificate that deemed Almrei a threat to national security.
The judge's decision throws further doubt on the federal government's legal regime for trying to deport foreign nationals it deems a national security threat. Ottawa says it has undertaken a sweeping review of the mechanisms used to deal with such threats.
Earlier this fall, a different judge threw out another security certificate against Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service withdrew secret evidence, fearing its disclosure would jeopardize its sources. Three other men are still fighting in court to avoid efforts to deport them.
Almrei, first arrested in October 2001 but released earlier this year under strict monitoring conditions that include an electronic tracking bracelet on his leg, said he had waited a long time for this day.
"I'm glad. I cannot describe how happy I am," he said from his lawyer's office. "At the same time, I'm sad it took me more than eight years."
Almrei, who entered Canada on a forged passport and was granted refugee status, said the "stigma" might never go away.
"It may take some time to prove one's innocence but at least now I can stand and look you in the eye and say ... you can believe Justice Mosley now. He's not my friend, or neighbour, or my lawyer – he is a judge and he decided based on evidence before him."
Mosley was a federal assistant deputy justice minister who helped draft Canada's post 9/11 anti-terror laws before being named to the bench in 2003. He ruled that while there were "reasonable grounds to believe that Hassan Almrei was a danger to the security of Canada when he was detained in 2001," he concluded "there are no longer reasonable grounds to believe that he is a security risk today."
"The court is satisfied that Almrei is not and was not a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe has engaged in terrorism," wrote Mosley.
Waldman said the controls governing Almrei's release might be formally lifted within days. There is still the possibility the federal government could seek to appeal.
The court was critical of CSIS and the federal ministers of public safety and immigration who signed a new certificate in 2008 against Almrei and four others. That followed a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada forcing Ottawa to provide more protection in cases where secret evidence is relied on.
Mosley said CSIS and the ministers "breached their duties of utmost good faith and candour to the court by not thoroughly reviewing the information in their possession, prior to the issuance of the February 2008 certificate."
"The implication of what is being said here is: what was reasonable in 2001 because we didn't know a lot, isn't reasonable in 2009," said Waldman.
The evidence against Almrei was based on informants' tips, wiretaps, and his admission of travel to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
CSIS queried foreign agencies about Almrei, Mosley wrote, but he "was not known to be an extremist suspect by the authorities in the jurisdictions canvassed."
Ottawa's case against Almrei was based on outdated and sketchy knowledge of Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups, and was loaded with information that "could only be construed as unfavourable to Almrei without any serious attempt to include information to the contrary."
"Certain of the human sources relied upon by (CSIS) are not credible," said Mosley, who gave a classified version of his ruling – with more detail – to the government.
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the Conservative government "inherited" the system for managing terrorist threats "from the previous Liberal government." But the Conservatives rewrote the rules after being directed to do so by the Supreme Court in 2007.
Van Loan insisted "no new security certificates have been issued by our government as long-term control instruments." One was used to deport a suspected Russian spy who did not challenge it.
Still, Van Loan acknowledged the review is necessary. "An increasingly complex legal environment, and the significant costs associated with outstanding certificates, are factors in the current review we are undertaking of this system."
A spokeswoman said CSIS had nothing to add to Van Loan's comments.