At present we have a longtime resident of Canada facing deportation—Mohammed Harkat—and a Canadian citizen facing extradition—Hassan Diab. The process in each case is tilted almost 90° in favour of the prosecution. No presumption of innocence here, as the engine of the law grinds on.
Here are some updates.
Q: What do you do when a doctor tells you that you have six months to live? A: Get a second opinion. The problem is, you can’t do that with judges, and Harkat found himself in front of the wrong one.
The judge in his case, Simon Noël, relying largely upon secret evidence, found him guilty of just about everything CSIS accused him of. But the judge may have gotten it wrong. A key issue was Harkat’s alleged association with a Pakistani named Ibn Khattab. Was the latter a terrorist?
Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Noël found that he was, because of his “implicit support” for a Chechen rebel named Shamil Basayev, the monster responsible for the Beslan massacre of at least 186 schoolchildren:
While there is no information suggesting that Ibn Khattab himself deliberately targeted civilians, or used them as hostages or shields, his support for Basayev’s Chechen movement reveals at least implicit support for such actions.
That seems a little tenuous, and at least one expert disagrees strongly with this, calling it “outlandish.” Another judge, Richard Mosely, came to exactly the opposite conclusion than did Noël:
Mosley ruled Khattab was not a member of the al-Qaeda network. “Khattab was a warrior,” Mosley wrote. “He favoured frontal attacks on the Russians. The information that he was directly involved in terrorist activities in Chechnya is not, in my view, persuasive but there is some information to that effect.”
On presumably the same or similar information, two judges issued contrary rulings. And a man, possibly innocent, is facing deportation to Algeria, where torture and death may await him.
Meanwhile, in another part of the thicket, Hassan Diab faces extradition to France on what appears, at least to this observer, to be flimsy, even contrived evidence. It’s all uphill for a Canadian citizen fighting extradition, but Diab’s lawyer has managed to negotiate a lot of obstacles during the course of an unusually long extradition hearing.
In our one-way extradition treaty with France (their own citizens are immune from extradition), all evidence provided to Canadian authorities is presumed reliable, making a defence extremely difficult. But since the passage of our Extradition Act in1999, evidence from the requesting country may be challenged as “manifestly unreliable.”
That small window has permitted the defence to challenge a number of aspects of the French case, including handwriting evidence that the prosecution has, perhaps unwisely, referred to as a “smoking gun.” Crown attorney Claude LeFrancois was none too keen on having the defence examine that gun too closely, but after weeks of argument, Robert Maranger, the judge in the case, permitted the defence to call three handwriting experts to rebut a French analyst who claimed that Hassan Diab and a terrorist who took part in a synagogue bombing in Paris were one and the same person.
The defence expert witnesses pretty well demolished both her findings and her credentials—their testimony was so damning, in fact, that LeFrancois was reduced to accusing the three of collusion.
The hearing will be over in eight more weeks, but whichever side prevails, it is expected that the matter will end up before the Supreme Court. Ditto with Mohammed Harkat.