Monday, October 08, 2007

New Laws Could Affect Bail, Sentencing for Terror Suspects in Canada

Hassan Almrei is considered a threat to Canada's national security, but the main reason he will now begin his seventh year in custody without trial is that he doesn't have a wife or relative to serve as his warden.

The 33-year-old Syrian and former Toronto resident was denied bail yesterday, making him the only terrorism suspect held on the national security certificate law that the Supreme Court struck down earlier this year.

Four other non-citizens accused of links to al Qaeda and like-minded groups have been released under strict conditions into the care of their spouses and relatives.

But Almrei, who will remain at a Kingston jail dubbed "Guantanamo North" by its critics, is not married and has no family in Canada.

A federal court justice found that the supervision he offered – living in the home of a Toronto supporter with a 75-hour work week – and his willingness to wear a GPS tracking bracelet, were insufficient safeguards to ensure that Almrei would not disappear if released on bail.

"The length of his detention he has now incurred and indeterminate future length of his detention in the future favour his release," Justice Fran├žois Lemieux wrote in a 49-page ruling released yesterday.

"(But) the proposed conditions of his release will not, on a balance of probabilities, contain or diminish the risk he represents. Therefore, he cannot be released."

Lemieux also said the GPS bracelet could only indicate when Almrei was no longer in his residence but, "before the authorities could apprehend Mr. Almrei, he could and may be long gone."

The government alleges Almrei supports an "al Qaeda ideology," and operated a forgery ring for the terrorist network. Lemieux upheld former court findings that Almrei continued to be a national security risk even though he has been in custody since October 2001.

"Mr. Almrei only revealed his true activities when he felt trapped. He economized the truth," Lemieux wrote.

"A comparison of the confidential information with his testimony demonstrates he continues to hide truth."

The government wants him deported to Syria – but Almrei says he will be tortured or killed if returned.

In a prison interview with the Toronto Star last month, Almrei said he spends most of his days in his cell watching Canada's parliamentary channel CPAC. While he hopes the Canadian public will demand one day that he be brought to trial, he said he still feels great affinity for his adopted country.

"I'm being held under an unconstitutional law.

"I'm not going to say it's really depressing because I'm not depressed. ... Am I happy? No, I'm not happy, but I deal in reality. I come from Syria, I come from Saudi Arabia, I come from dictatorship countries," Almrei said.

Six months ago the Supreme Court stuck down key provisions of the immigration law known as national security certificates, ruling it was unconstitutional because it allowed the government to rely on secret evidence from Canada's spy service, without giving defendants a chance to refute the allegations. Parliament was given one year to amend the law before it's declared invalid. Last weekend Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told a security conference in Calgary he plans to introduce the new legislation in the fall. Almrei could again be charged under the new system.


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