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Suspects challenge Canada's indefinite detention of terror suspects
The Associated Press
OTTAWA – Three Muslim men challenged Canada's policy toward foreign-born terror suspects in the country's highest court Tuesday, arguing that detaining them for years or deporting them violates the constitution.
Mohamed Harkat, Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei are accused by the Canadian intelligence service of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The men say they are innocent and have spent years in detention as the government determines whether they should be deported.
The men say they fear they'll be tortured or killed if forced to return to their native countries of Algeria, Morocco and Syria, respectively.
Lawyers for the men also challenged the conditions of their detention and the government's refusal to disclose evidence against them.
"Cases should be heard fully and publicly by an independent and impartial court," Johanne Doyon, an attorney representing the Moroccan-born Charkaoui told the nine judges.
Two other detainees, Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah, aren't part of the current challenge but their fates likely rest on the outcome. Both are Egyptian.
Charkaoui, 32, was released on $42,000 bail last year after 21 months in detention on allegations he is a sleeper agent for al-Qaida. He denies the connection.
"I don't just want to be free — I want justice," he said outside the courtroom
Harkat, an Algerian, was arrested in December 2002, and is expected to be freed on bail this week. Almrei, a native of Syria who has been detained since 2001, remains in jail, as do Mahjoub and Jaballah
"You can't just put someone in jail, throw away the key and not give them any hope of getting out," said Barbara Jackman, representing Almrei.
Edward Greenspan of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, called on the justices to disregard the public anxiety over terrorism and focus on constitutional rights.
"We must realize that the greatest danger to our institutions may rest not in the threat of subversion, but in our own weakness in yielding to wartime anxiety and our readiness to disregard the fundamental rights of the individual," Greenspan said.
The case finds Canada still reeling from the arrests of 17 Muslim terror suspects.
On Monday 14 of the suspects, include five teenagers, appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton, just west of Toronto, for a bail hearing during which the judge imposed a media blackout on courtroom proceedings.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company