Stay of Deportation Granted to Secret Trial Detainee Hassan Almrei

Bail Hearing Continued as Judge Goes Behind Closed Doors with CSIS Agents to Hear More Secret Evidence

(Apologies for the lateness of this report. We have been very busy at the campaign, but wanted to make sure we kept folks up to date with what has been happening with Hassan. Below is an account of the decision in favour of the temporary stay, a report from the continuation of the bail hearing for Hassan, and some helpful links that will provide more background on Hassan, especially his affidavit, which provides the kind of context that was not available in the ten second sound bites that referred to it).

TORONTO, NOVEMBER 28, 2003 -- A week of dramatic events surrounded the detention review and application to stay the deportation of Hassan Almrei, a Syrian refugee who has now spent almost 26 months in solitary confinement, without charge, at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre.

The week began with the public release of an affidavit from Hassan explaining the many facets of his life that he was fearful of discussing so soon after the events of September 11, 2001 (the full text of the affidavit is available at )

It is a remarkable document about a young man -- one of countless thousands -- caught up in a rapidly moving tide of events related to efforts to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan. In a tale that could read, some felt, like that of some of the young people who went to join the international brigades in Spain against Franco's fascist forces, Almrei relates how, in the mosques in Saudi Arabia, "young men were being strongly encouraged to go to fight the 'infidels', i.e., the communist government that took over when the Soviets left. There was open fund raising in Saudi Arabia for the fight. It was my understanding that even the United States supported the fight against the Soviets and then the communist government that the Soviets left in place in Afghanistan when they departed....Bin Laden was not a big name, that I knew of at the time, and I did not support him."

Sure enough, it was Hassan's presence in Afghanistan at this time of much Western support for anti-Soviet forces which has so unfortunately come back to haunt him, in much the same way that those internationals who fought in Spain in the 1930s were later branded traitors by the U.S. government, labelled "premature anti-fascists" as they were hauled before Truman and McCarthy-era inquisitors of the House Un-American Activities Committee."

Then as now, one can easily become a target of state security agencies who try to pin the blame on you for what happened after you were gone. In this case, the crimes of a bin Laden, committed long after Almrei was involved in the anti-Soviet struggle, are somehow affixed to his present life just as the often horrific crimes of the Soviets were retroactively linked to people's activities in the 1930s both in Spain and in progressive organizations.

Hassan's story is of a young kid who spends most of his time in Afghanistan and Pakistan recovering from malaria. He did wind up in a camp led by a man named Sayaf, who is currently a member of the Afghani government. Hassan says he was given "basic information on how to handle an AK-47, which is something everyone there had to know because of the war. I was issued an AK-47, but never used it. I spent my time there as an imam, leading prayers and teaching the Koran. I was an imam because I had memorized the Koran."

He also discusses fund raising for a girls school, his work as a salesman of perfume and honey. He talks about his fears that Saudi security were following him because of his journeys to Afghanistan to oppose the Soviets, journeys which were funded by the Saudis. "Although the Saudi government had encouraged and financially supported young Arabs to go to Afghanistan to support and participate in the fight against the Russians and then the communist government that they left in power there when they pulled out of Afghanistan, it changed its views of those who had gone there. They later arrested many young men who had gone to Afghanistan."

Almrei is concerned that the Saudis may have provided the wrong impression of him to CSIS.

"If the Saudi security officials did provide information to CSIS, I would not expect it to be accurate. They never talked to me and never questioned me about my beliefs or my activities. I think that they assume that the young people whom they encouraged to support the fight against the Soviets, are extremists. This is just not true. I am not an extremist and many of the others who went are not extremists either. At the time that I went, people were not going to support Bin Laden. He was not to me, in any event, a big figure or even seen as a big leader.

"I went and many others went because we were opposed to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and later were against the pro-Soviet government which took over. I did not know that the Taliban would end up being in control of Afghanistan or that it would be so restrictive in its views of Islam. I was not even in a Taliban camp; there was no Taliban then. I was in Sayaf's camp and later he fought the Taliban. I do not even believe in the restrictions that the Taliban imposed on women in Afghanistan. My father treated me, my brothers and my sisters the same. We all got an education. He taught us all the Koran. My Islam does not exclude women. Further, my beliefs in Islam do not include killing innocent people."



As the press mulls over Hassan's affidavit, he is faced with a more pressing concern: a deportation order which seeks to have him sent back wo Syria within two weeks..The timing of the deportation order is odd, given that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration could have issued this order at any time in the past year. Instead, it is issued very close to Hassan's bail hearing, which means much of the week is taken up with the effort to get a temporary stay granted.

Before the arguments about the stay are presented, Hassan receives good news by way of Ottawa, where Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was kidnapped by U.S. authorities and sent to torture for a year in Syria, issues a statement:


"I have prepared the following statement in response to the numerous requests I have received to comment on the case of Mr. Hassan Almrei.

I do not know Mr. Almrei and I do not know about the charges that have been made against him. What I do know is that many organizations and his lawyer have expressed concern that if he is deported to Syria, he may face torture.

Given my experience, and what I lived through, and what I heard happening to other people in prison in Syria, I believe Mr. Almrei would face the same ordeal, if not worse. I still cannot believe that human beings treat human beings that way in Syrian prison.

There is nothing that justifies sending people to countries where torture is commonplace."


On Thursday morning, a packed courtroom is utterly silent as media, friends and supporters of Hassan, and court security look on as Justice Edward Blanchard enters the room. The tension is palpable. A few months earlier, very few people had even heard of Almrei. But he has become a nationally known name, largely through publicity surrounding his 39-day hunger strike over the conditions in solitary confinement. People across the country are eagerly awaiting, and hoping, for a stay of the order to deport Hassan to torture in Syria sometime within two and a half weeks (an exact date was not assigned for "reasons of security.")

Blanchard reviews the background of the case and then moves to the crucial three-part test in such cases. He says that Almrei, through lawyer Barbara Jackman, needs to prove that "(1) he has raised a serious issue to be tried in the underlying judicial review application; (2) he would suffer irreparable harm if nor order was granted; and (3) the balance of convenience considering the total situation of both parties, favour the granting of the stay.

In addressing the first issue, Blanchard notes that concerns were raised that in the minister's conclusion about Hassan, no mention is made of the specific risk to Hassan of torture if deported to Syria. Indeed, reports by three professors had been submitted to the Minister that clearly state Almrei faces "certain torture and likely execution," "high risk of torture and death," and "a significant risk of torture."

Blanchard notes that "the more important the evidence that is not mentioned specifically and analysed in the agency's reasons, the more willing a court may be to infer from the silence that the agency made an erroneous finding of fact without regard to the evidence."

He is satisfied that a serious issue has been established. He also notes that Hassan "will suffer irreparable harm if his stay is not granted, on the basis that his removal will render his pending application 'moot' or 'nugatory.'"

"I accept that the applicant will suffer greater harm if a stay of the removal order is not granted than the inconvenience to the Minister should the stay be granted," he concludes, meaning Hassan can be in Canada at least until an appeal of the deportation order is heard.

There is great relief, though this is tempered with the reality that there is still a lengthy road ahead for Hassan, who will "celebrate" his relief back in his solitary confinement cell that night.



After a break during which media head out to file the news, the nuts and bolts of the detention review continue with a debate about what can be received as evidence.

"You are not bound by the rules of evidence, otherwise you couldn't receive all those newspaper articles from my friend," Jackman tells Blanchard in reference to the stack of "evidence" which CSIS provides in building its secret trial case, a collection of clippings from such "reliable" and "unbiased" sources as Time, Newsweek, and the National Post which the agency believes constitute solid evidence.

At issue is part of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) under which the security certificate is carried out that states a judge may receive anything, even if it would be inadmissable in a court of law. While CSIS regularly takes advantage of this luxury, they get a bit miffed when defence counsel try and use it for their clients' benefit.

Jackman says she would love it if this section did not apply, adding "I would much rather have a civil proceedings rule [unlike the current scheme under which gossip and innuendo are admitted]"

The proceeding continues with a representative of CSIS known only as "J.P.," who will be familiar to those following the security certificate proceeding of Adil Charkaoui in Montreal. J.P. gives his address as 1941 Ogilvie Road (CSIS headquarters) and says he has been an intelligence officer for 13 years. He says he is aware of the "open" allegations against Hassan (the "public" document of beliefs, theories, inferences, and suppositions which is laughingly referred to as "disclosure" in such cases).

J.P. talks in soundbites, peppering his statements with references to a statement Osama bin Laden made five years ago that pledged to kill Americans.

Jackman makes a standing objection to every document J.P. tenders until a determination of scope has been established, but Blanchard refuses to entertain it.

J.P. talks about identity falsification as the key to allowing Al-Qaeda operatives to travel in other countries. "Their trademark is mass murder by suicide," he says, pulling a quote out of the Bush/Rumsfeld playbook.

"An operative can be an engineer, a forger, or the suicide driver," J.P. says, saying there have been 22 attacks in 12 countries in which 6 Canadians have been killed. "CSIS believes Hassan Almrei is a threat who should not be released. We believe he could be at the disposal of Al Qaeda."

Jackman begins her cross examination. As she understood things, CSIS was supposed to provide an agent who was very much familiar with Hassan's case so that a fully informed update could be provided on his status. J.P. admits he has not read the classified documents related to Almrei, nor has he consulted with the RCMP.

She asks what kind of training he has with respect to the Middle East. Does he speak Arabic? No. He took a one-week seminar in 1992 that was held internally.

"Would you agree a knowledge of the history and culture of the region is valuable?" she asks. He says yes. But he does not speak Arabic, and a one week internal seminar hardly seem sufficient grounding in the issues.

"I've never seen a CSIS officer who is not white," Jackman begins, drawing a thunderous objection from government lawyer Donald MacIntosh.

J.P. explains that he does NOT have expertise on the Middle east, only on terrorism. He admits he has no expertise on the Muslim religion or its various divisions.

Jackman questions J.P. about the infamous book of pictures which was downloaded from Hassan's computer by the RCMP. They are pictures that used to be attached to news articles on the Middle East, but the text has been cut by the RCMP, leaving behind only the images. This is a dangerous deception, because it would appear that Hassan was only interested in the images of bin Laden and destruction, and not in the articles affixed to them.

Jackman shows J.P. a picture of a cockpit and asks where it was taken from. "Would you disagree if I said it was from a computer game?"

"It could be."

Jackman asks why an e-mail which was not sent to nor written by Almrei is in the book.

"I learned about this manual yesterday," J.P. says.

"Could someone other than Hassan check their e-mails on his computer?" Yes.

"These pictures could have come from someone else using his computer?" Maybe.

Jackman refers J.P back to the bin Laden fatwa of 1998.

"Have you read the original in Arabic?"


"How do you know it's an accurate translation?"

J.P. explains that it comes from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which provides translation.

"Is it connected to U.S. intelligence?'

"Could be."

"So they're [U.S. intelligence] reliable, according to you?"


(Those familiar with the U.S. intelligence on the weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq are forgiven for a smirk at this point).

Jackman refers to a more recent statement from bin Laden in which some dozen countries are mentioned by Bin Laden for being aligned with the U.S. Where does J.P.'s version of that come from?

"It seems to be translated by the BBC."

"You rely on the BBC version? You rely on news articles?"

"As an element of our analysis. We don't take a single article as our sole source."

"So if the BBC reports it, then the CBC, that's corroboration?" an incredulous Jackman asks.

J.P. is rattled. "CSIS does not collect evidence, we collect intelligence."

The statement in question refers to the U.K. France, Canada, Germany, and Australia as aligned with the U.S.

J.P.'s earlier statement that Canadians are a target group for Al-Qaeda comes under withering cross examination. Jackman refers to the Bali bombing in Indonesia, which J.P. admits targetted Australians.

"Since that statement, what attacks have been directed against Canada, Germany, France and Italy?"

"Since that statement there haven't been any attacks against any of them except for Italy--in Basra--but the jury is still out on who did it."

The attack was against Italian occupation troops, however, and not against people in Italy.

"Has anyone been arrested in the attack on the UN headquarters?"

"I'm not sure."

"You say it was claimed by Al Qaeda but you don't know?"


Jackman refers to the other attacks in which J.P says 30 Canadians have been killed. If we take out 9/11, the number is six. The countries in which attacks have occurred are Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Turkey, the Philippines, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

Canada interestingly is not among that list. In other words, the Canadians whose lives have been lost in attacks have not been targetted because they were Canadian, only because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"They just happened to be there," J.P. concedes.

Jackman then questions J.P. on Afghanistan and the role of bin Laden. There is confusion here, because J.P. states that he believes that bin Laden began training there in 1989. He is unsure of what percentage of the Arabs who went to fight the Soviets were part of what eventually became Al Qaeda.

"So you'd defer to an expert on that question?" she asks.


Jackman asks J.P. to describe the profile of the type of individual Al Qaeda selected for operatives out of the large pool of individuals who went to Afghanistan. He says they would be fit, responsible, mature, religious, proficient in military tactics, having proven themselves as good soldiers

"Would you say they took the cream of the crop?"

"Yes, and those with special talents, doctors, electricians, etc."

Jackman asks if the real intensive training of Al Qaeda began after 1996. He says no, but she reads from a document CSIS has provided that shows an intensive effort began after that year. "It's your document, not mine," Jackman says. She asks if there were many shades to the anti-Soviet resistance. He agrees, and also agrees that not everyone agreed with bin Laden.



As Jackman starts to ask specific questions with regard to Hassan and his time in Afghanistan, it is clear that J.P. has not been properly briefed. "He doesn't know about the RCMP search book, he doesn't know about Sayaf [a resistance lader], it's not an informed witness with respect to J.P.," Jackman says. She is clearly disturbed that CSIS, which has had access to the information Hassan willingly provided in November 2002 in his affidavit, has not sent someone with proper background to provide an updated assessment.

"J.P. gave his opinion that Almrei's detention should be continued, but someone should be able to answer questions about Almrei after having had this information for a year," she explains. "J.P came hear to tell you Hassan Almrei is a risk, but CSIS is not frozen in time. I want to know the significance that Hassan was in a Northern Alliance camp, not an Al-Qaeda camp, that changes Hassan's profile in terms of their 'threat assessment.'"

Jackman says the order to produce a CSIS witness has not been complied with, and wonders why they are proceeding with questioning J.P. Blanchard takes not of her objection but implores her to continue, even though there seems little point.

Jackman asks him some questions regarding the affidavit, to which J.P. replies he is not that familiar with it, having received it two nights earlier.

"Did the declaration go to CSIS earlier than it did to you?"

"It went to the legal branch Tuesday afternoon."

"Hassan Almrei filed this in November 2002. Is it not normal for the minister of citizenship and immigration to forward relevant information to the service?"

MacIntosh jumps up with an objection, saying for J.P. to answer would get into CIC policies with respect to CSIS, and these are ":confidential."

"Frankly, I could care less about their policies. I want to know if it went to CSIS!" Jackman says. She tells the court that this is not a prepared witness, and that she wants the Minister to send a better witness.

Jackman says this is becoming a waste of our time, and asks why CSIS wouldn't investigate the affidavit.

"Does [Almrei's] statement cause you concern?

"It's vague, I can't speak to its authenticity," J.P. replies.

"You've had no chance to investigate further?"

"It's very general. The vagueness does not permit probing analysis."

"Someone in your department should know that Sayaf is a minister in the Afghanistan government. So, the only thing you saw was this declaration?"


"You didn't see the documentary evidence?"


"How do you ever catch terrorists if you don't get the documentation that's submitted to the government?" Jackman asks in frustration."

Jackman asks whether there was someone else in the department at CSIS who would know about Hassan.

"If we had the information we would look at it."

"Do you mean CSIS or you? Presumably if you informed yourself about this case you would have talked to others at CSIS about Almrei before coming here?"

"I did not. I followed counsel's advice."

Jackman asks the court to clarify the role J.P. was supposed to play, but Blanchard says that matter will be dealt with after cross examination. He doesn't see that the process is pointless.

"Do you know that CSIS talks about Hassan Almrei with members of the community?"


"You didn't inform yourself?"


"Were you involved in the original investigation of Hassan Almrei?"


"Why were you brought forward instead of officers who did?"

MacIntosh objects again that this is corporate information, and it is sustained.

This is frustrating.

"What is it about Hassan Almrei that fits with the profile?"

"His military training, his forging documents, and intelligence gathering." J.P. concedes that "being in Afghanistan does not qualify as a threat to the security of Canada by itself." He also says "we're not hanging our case [against Hassan] on him being one of the cream of the crop."

Jackman asks if J.P. were ever in one of these Afghanistan camps. He was not.

"Are all the camps for training?"

"Yes,. They're not teaching linear calculus, they're teaching how to handle weapons." [In fact, J.P. is wrong here--many of the camps were for religious instruction])

"Where is the evidence in the open source material about what is done in these camps? Can you provide reports to that effect?" Jackman asks.

MacIntosh objects.

"I want to see some documents that the only thing you could do in these camps was military training," Jackman says. "These are significant conclusions. We need to see the documents he's relying on to draw his conclusions."

"I understand they weren't all training camps," Jackman continues

"[There were] Refugee and training camps," J.P. says.

"Do you know if there is secret evidence on this point?


"With respect to forged documents, do you know if Hassan made the passport?"


"Almrei says he never did it for anyone else. Do you know if he did?"


"So how do you say he is a forger?"

"That's not the right term. He's a document procurer."

"What great skill is involved in that?" Jackman asks.

"Knowing people who can do it. I wouldn't know how to tap into that kind of resource if I needed to" (an enlightening remark given he is a terrorism expert and should know how that world operates!!!)

Jackman asks him if he is aware of the huge number of refugee claimants that come to Canada on false documents.

"Some do."

"In fact, CSIS has even identified this as a problem, right?"

"I don't recall."

He does say that in the scheme of things the Muslim Brotherhood is "fairly benign" and is not "per se" linked to Al Qaeda.

"You said Hassan has expertise in intelligence?"

"His experience in Tajikistan means he's got them. Perhaps he's a terrible scout, I can't say.""

(Hassan's affidavit states clearly this his trips there were pretty pointless, and more Monty Python-esque than anything else: " I did travel twice to Tajikistan. The first time I went along with a party scouting Russian positions, although it was only a scouting party and did not engage in conflict. There were about twenty of us, both Tajikis and Arabs. We went to the border, but did not go into Tajikistan. I was the only person that time who was not armed. I was not sure of the strategy of the Mujahadeen leadership at that time, as I had the impression that they were pretty disorganized. They did not really want to fight. I went another time to the border. This time we were able to cross over the river into Tajikistan and I remained there for about two weeks and helped set up a camp. I was given an AK-47 at that time, but we did not encounter any Russians. The gun was for protection, in case we were attacked trying to establish the camp. The area we were in had no villages or people around. It was empty.")

"What skill is there in walking around and hiding behind bushes?" Jackman asks.

"But you're taking notes at the same time," J.P., replies, trying again to add an air of mystery and intrigue to the proceeding.

"Is it fair to say this is not a highly skilled thing? You could learn in the girl scouts or the boy scouts, right?"

J.P. is stumped. "It's his links to others."

Jackman takes him through a list of names have been linked to Almrei, asking whether any of these individuals have been charged with anything or detained. J.P. says no to all of them. These include Nabil Al-Marabh (sitting in a U.S. jail on a minor immigration violation) and Ahmed Al Kaysee, whose alleged association with Hassan is referred to in the deportation order as one of the reasons he poses a threat to Canada.

Does J.P. know about Al Kaysee?

"He's involved in activities in extremist Islamic circles, but I can't comment," he says.

Has Al Kayseee ever been charged with anything?

"I'm not sure of his situation."

"Has he been detained or faced deportation? Would you disagree with me if I told you he's alive and well and living in Toronto?"


Then why, the question would seem, is it so horrible that Hassan may be linked to someone who, if he is such a threatening figure, walks the streets of Toronto daily?> "So what's the difference between Al Kaysee and Hassan Almrei if both are extremists?"

"Mr. Al Kaysee has no training. That's the difference, but I have no details."

"You call Hassan Almrei a mujahedeen. Whose term is it?"

"It's a term used by academics, by us."

"Is it a generic term for all Arab Afghans?"

"For all fighters."

"Are you aware that there is compulsory military service in places like Israel? Why is military training such a concern?"

"It's not, not on its own. It's because he supports Osama bin Laden [again, no proof provided]. If there were an Islamic extremist hanging around the reserves, that would be a concern."

Jackman asks him is he sees a difference between extremism and fundamentalism, and whether he's aware that not everyone believes bin Laden is behind 9/11.

"How connected are you to the Muslim community?"

"I know a few of them."

"Is it not possible to share Osama bin Laden's fundamentalist views without supporting him?" She comments on this because of what she calls J.P.'s white anglo saxon male world view.

"How much do you know about the honey business?" she asks, as Hassan's former minor role in it is also being held against him.

"Not very much."

J.P. equates Hassan's beliefs with bin Laden's. Where does that conclusion come from? J.P. says it's in classified information.

"Why is it classified if those views allegedly come from his own website or chatline? Why is it classified?"

MacIntosh objects, claiming the question gets into CSIS methodologies. It is sustained.

Jackman objects, "There's nothing secret about the fact the RCMP dowloaded the contents of his computer. I think given the fact that it's disclosed in the Minister's report I see no threat to national security in disclosing the basis for this."

Jackman asks J.P., again. "So everything about his beliefs is classified?"

"That's correct."

She asks if he knows that Canada does not prosecute convention refugees who come to this country for travelling with false passports, and proceeds with the other allegations against Hassan.

How is it, she asks, that Hassan acted in a "clandestine" fashion."

"That's classified." [Again. J.P., says he has not seen the classified information, but can nonetheless say with confidence what's in it.]

"Can you agree with me that for people in many countries they may grow up to act clandestinely, especially for people from police states? And what about people who come from places where the state acts abroad? Aren't Syrians state-sponsors of terrorists, and not just at home?" Jackman states. "Being clandestine does not mean you're involved in violence. You could be in the CPC-ML {Communist Party of Canada-Marxist Leninist] and be clandestine., it just means you don't trust CSIS. Why would any young Muslim trust CSIS?"

This is objected to by MacIntosh.

"If you think CSIS is asking questions about you in your community wouldn't you be clandestine? If I were a young Muslim I'd certainly be," Jackman declares.

"CSIS doesn't target Islamic Canadians," J.P. says. [Pause here for smirks from the community members who are regularly targetted]

"But the perception is certainly there."

"I'm aware that's a problem. I'm aware of CAIR-CAN, Canadian Arab Federation complaints."

"Is it not plausible that for a person like Hassan Almrei he may be concerned that he doesn't want to be targetted?"

"There's a difference between precautions and clandestine behaviour."

"Are you aware that Hassan was the initiator of contact with CSIS?"


"After 9/11, it seemed those who were on the inner or outer rings of Al-Qaeda had money, were studying, flying a lot across the country."

"That's one element of a profile."

He again says Canada has been singled out.

"How likely would Al-Qaeda knock on Hassan's door. Wouldn't he be compromised? He'd have strict release conditions. If he's restricted to Toronto, he can't go to Montreal, can he?

"Who's to say he'd adhere to his conditions?"

"I understand CSIS can tap phones, houses, cars, like they have with my other clients."

Objection from MacIntosh.

"Why not put surveillance on him?

"The risk is he would break his conditions."

"But even if Hassan is not trusted by CSIS, how likely is it that others would go near him?"

"I can't get into the reasons why it's possible people would get in touch with him. It's possible but I don;t know how likely."

"If others are going to get in touch with him why aren't they already in jail?"

"We work on one case at a time. There are 5 right now."

"None of those are Canadians."

"At present, there are 5 non-Canadians detained."

"But we don't know of any Canadians having ties to Al-Qaeda. What does that say? Are there no Canadians with connections to Al Qaeda?"

MacIntosh objects.

"Why is it just non-Canadians who are detained?" Jackman asks.

Objection is sustained.

Government attorney Hoffman gets up and takes JP through the RCMP picture book. He asks JP to identify a variety of pictures of Osama bin Laden, then a picture of someone who has died in an explosion, a composite of 9/11 photos.

Jackman objects. "This is grandstanding for the press. It does not advance the case."

She is told it will go forward.

J.P. is asked when the Northern Alliance originated. J.P. is not sure. He is then asked about a charity in Saudi Arabia, to which Jackman now objects, as it is not subject to cross examination.

That is sustained, and J.P. exits via a side door.



There follows a discussion about why Hassan's ideology is considered secret, especially since the Minister seems to have been careless in releasing in a public document something which had been kept from the pubic record until now (allegations of anti-Semitic remarks and alleged comments about the Taliban destruction of Buddhist sites in Afghanistan).

Blanchard declares, remarkably, that he is satisfied that the CSIS agent complied with the terms of his order. Jackman says she wants to examine an RCMP agent but it appears this request is going nowhere.

Following the afternoon break, Dr. Aly Hindy takes the stand. He says he has spoken frequently on the phone with Hassan, visited him at the jail, and is prepared to post a $100,000 surety if necessary.

He says while in Egypt in early November he was invited to the state security building for two meetings. This was a follow-up to his kidnapping and interrogation in Egypt in February. when he was detained for 2 days.

In the fall he was kept from entering Egypt for 3 hours as they questioned him at the Cairo airport.

"They called me in and said they were getting bad reports from Canada about me and that I should not help those people [detainees]. They asked me about Hassan Almrei," he says, adding he realized from their pronunciation that he did not know who Almrei was, even though his questioner was an expert on Al-Qaeda.

At his second meeting he was told by the top national security people in Egypt that they wanted to clear his file. When they asked him questions about Hassan, it seems the questions originated from Canada, not from Syria. He met with the officer who brought Ahmad Abou El-Maati [Canadian detained and tortured over two years abroad] from Syria to Egypt, and said the report he would send back to Canada was like putting ice on fire.

"Has CSIS talked to you about their concerns?" Jackman asks.

"I have met the RCMP in the past. I found out they do the same work as CSIS. I stayed once with them for 3 hours. They asked individuals in the community about me, so I stopped talking with them. I stopped trusting them. I was doing them a service but they stabbed me in the back."

He says it feels like he is harassed by CSIS because of bad blood left over from the Jaballah case [where Hindy appeared as a character witness].

"I'm willing to work with them if they change their attitude,. But if they keep sending reports against me how can I work with them?"

Hindy says he has never met a CSIS agent who speaks Arabic.

He says community folks have told him CSIS has been asking questions about Almrei. The prior Sunday he was at a party for a community elder who knows Hassan very well. "He told me CSIS visited him and asked about Hassan. CSIS told him they know Hassan has nothing to do with a forgery ring and nothing to do with Al-Qaeda. Their only condern is with the fact he met Khatab [who is now dead] and they said a comment like 'since he has no status here they might as well get rid of him.'"

Hindy explains as well that Sayaf is well known in Afghanistan, a household name like Clinton or Chretien.

"What is Sayaf doing now?"

"He was in the Northern Alliance, now he is in the government."

Is he a sympathizer with Al-Qaeda?


He discusses the Muslim Brotherhood as well, how even Anwar Sadat had been a member , but the group had left violence behind decades ago in favour of parliamentary efforts. Admittedly, they are a headache for the government since they ask people to go on peaceful demonstrations. They're more like dissidents, but no violence. He also says Al Haramin is a well-respected charity in Saudi Arabia.

He then discusses how we need a new definition of terrorism, and reflects on how Al-Qaeda is almost like an invention, and now everything bad gets blamed on it. He says he feels the evidence against the five in Canada now is simplistic, and that our security services can do better work.

"I go to chatlines, I listen in many places, go to websites for Muslim nations. Many people don't support bin Laden's views. When injustice happens, they support some of his political statements, but young people are now forced to say, "I'm a Muslim, but I'm not a terrorist. Why should they have to be that way?"



On Friday morning, three of Hassan's close friends are set to testify. Before they do, we learn that CSIS says they will provide open information on the camps of Afghanistan, but will not release public informatyion on Hassan's alleged beliefs. The judge and CSIS lawyers then retire for a secret session.

When they return, Blanchard announces he will refrain from comment on disclosure and that he will go "in camera" [secret session behind closed doors] next week in Ottawa. "I have directed the Ministers to update the court and address all of the information in his matter. That disclosure determination will then be made."

Diana Ralph then begins her testimony. She discusses the many phone calls, jail visits, and efforts to help Hassan phone his family in Saudi Arabia to talk with his relatives.

"We very quickly got to like each other. We discussed philosophy, religion, family, pets. I'm a Jewish lesbian who's the same age as Hassan's mother, and he's two years older than my own son.. I adopted him. He called my wife to sing her happy birthday. We have a warm and loving relationship."

She explains that Hassan has never expressed animosity towards her for being either a Jew or a lesbian, and in fact said that he hoped Diana never went to Saudi Arabia, where he knew she would be stoned to death. She talks about how Hassan has problems with Israeli policies, but that this did not make him in any way anti-Semitic.

She has spent $32,000 to renovate a basement apartment for Almrei, and the contractors were so moved by the story of Hassan that they donated the kitchen unit.

"It's clear he's a deeply spiritual person. He refused food from a guard when he was on hunger strike. I've asked him many questions about his life and he's been very consistent in his answers, which I have also corroborated with his friends." She talks about how solitary confinement for individuals such as Mandela and Gandhi "deepens the sense of self, and I get the sense Hassan has had to face himself and who he is, and he is at peace. He knows is safety is in his honesty and integrity."

A professional social worker with a PhD in psychology, Ralph says she can easily spot a con, and hates being lied to. "I've never had a sense that he lied to me," she says of Hassan.

MacIntosh objects, saying the court should give no weight whatsoever to Ralph's impressions of Hassan's integrity.

Jackman asks, "how can you judge what he is like if you can't know who he is?" MacIntosh then objects to the presentation of Ralph's impressive resume, which includes many scholarly publications.

In terms of seeing Ms. Ralph as a responsible person, this points to her credibility, Jackman says.

She asks if Diana has read the original public allegations, based on secret evidence, that were released in October 2001 after Hassan's arrest. "I would give the author of that report a D-" says Ralph, drawing an immediate objection, which is sustained.

Diana argues that she would like to discuss the inconsistencies between what is in the CSIS Summary and what she herself knows of Hassan.

MacIntosh says that would be a collateral attack on the decision upholding the security certificate.

Jackman says the judge still has to consider the "strength" of the case against Hassan in his bail determination.

"No attempt can be made to counter the information in those documents," MacIntosh says.

Diana also discusses Zionism, which she describes as an ideology that was developed in the mid 1800s that said for Jews to be safe they needed a Jewish state in Israel. She says it was not a central tenet of Judaism and that both reform and orthodox Jews rejected it before 1947. Many orthodox Jews still reject Zionism, she says, and there is still much controversy over the philosophy. She's asked if anti-Semitism is the same as anti-Zionism.

MacIntosh objects in the grounds that Ralph is not an expert in theology.

Blanchard says to proceed with caution.

Ralph says she has participated in the emotionally charged discussions about Zionism, and that some attacks on Zionism are seen as anti-Semitic, "and some Zionists accuse us of being self-hating Jews. Anyone who questions Zionism is seen as anti-Semitic."

She says she went to Holy Blossom Temple post 9./11 to raise the issue, and said the rabbi there appeared to characterize Muslims as bad people. She left, and joined Tikkun, which means to heal the world, which is the obligation of all Jews.

Ralph says Hassan's attitudes have changed over the past six months. When they first spoke, Hassan said he wanted everyone to be a Muslim so they could get to paradise, but now she says each person should follow their own prophet. She says that he was first shocked when he heard she was a lesbian, but has since defended her to friends who expressed shock when they saw Diana and her partner Jean kissing on a documentary.

Asked if she fears for her safety is Hassan lives with her, she says no. "But I do fear that this would bring about persecution from CSIS. I'm concerned about the scope of what CSIS sees as terrorist, since they declared anti-globalization activists as terrorists..."

MacIntosh objects, but Jackman says it is a legitimate concern.

Hoffman asks if she speaks Arabic, and how she would know what is being said if Hassan has a visitor who speaks Arabic. Diana says if she has any suspicions, she will raise them with Hassan.

After a lunch break, Matthew Behrens takes the stand. He discusses his own personal and organizational commitment to nonviolence, and how Hassan through his actions has been a major example of the power of transformational nonviolence. He explains how Hassan was ill treated by guards when he first arrived at Metro West, but through his relentless patience, the guards had come to know and respect him, to the point that five of them came forward to testify on his behalf during his hunger strike over the cold in his cell. He also discusses how Hassan's calls are an event in the house, how Hassan has come to know Behrens' partner and daughter, and how his daughter's friends all know of and ask frequently about Hassan. He talks about how Hassan's example of nonviolence has not only been a personal inspiration, but has helped others on the outside as an example. He discusses how one man, when faced with a confrontation, thought of Hassan in solitary confinement and was able to centre himself and remain nonviolent in dealing with cops in a tense situation. "What really strikes me is his lack of hatred or bitterness," Behrens says of Hassan.

The day closes with powerful testimony from Hassan Ahmad, a friend who knew Hassan before his arrest. A Canadian citizen originally from Eritrea,, he discusses how the two of them became close friends very quickly.. When asked why he did not come forward before this day, Ahmad explains, "I didn't know the magnitude of the problem, and I was scared. After Sept. 11 my apartment was raided by the RCMP, but I was later cleared. They had nothing on me."

He says when the Mounties raided his house, they "kept asking what I did wrong, that I was guilty by association by knowing Hassan."

He says they kept in touch just after the arrest but later there was no contact, because of fear. How did he overcome his fear?

"I think two years is too much, and the problem is much bigger than I thought," he says. "Then I saw white Canadians helping him, and that encouraged me even more."

Ahmad says he does not believe Hassan has views of a terrorist nature, and that he has become less strictly religious. "He's not as strict as when he first came to Canada. I have a fruit stand, and he used to help me there. At the beginning he had trouble talking with females, but with time he started having eye contact, and soon he was flirting with them,"

Does the fact that Hassan was in Afghanistan scare you? he's asked.

"Not at all. People who went to Afghanistan are viewed as good people who went to fight the Soviets. They're revered, actually." But after 9/11 no one wants to be remembered for that kind of thing. Even Afghanis are afraid to admit they're from Afghanistan."

"He's the kind of guy who was always helping people. The other day at the fruit stand an older person came by. Hassan used to help them with shopping and things, and that person was asking about Hassan."

Ahmad says Almrei was no good at handling money. "His expectation was the sky would shower him with money, but he borrowed money a lot." Ahmad says that if Hassan had only twenty dollars to his name, he would buy pistachio nuts instead of food for dinner."

As the day ends, there is a sense of hope. Some very human voices have entered the court to speak to Hassan's humanity.

As we head out of court, Hassan is handcuffed and trucked back to Metro West, where he continues to do time in solitary confinement. We now await a date for a continuation of his bail hearing and the appeal of his deportation order.

Hassan thanks all those who have written to him and demonstrated on his behalf, and apologizes he has not written back, as he can only write in Arabic.

He would be embarrassed to know that we are letting people know this, but his 30th birthday is January 1. If you would like to send him a card it can go to:


Hassan Almrei

Metro West Detention Centre

111 Disco Road

Rexdale, ON M9W 5L6

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