February, 2005

Below are some details about the Five Muslim men held on secret trial security certificate. While it might make for an interesting academic exercise to outline the public allegations against them, the complete lack of evidence for those allegations means we might just as well allege that they are Martians or Venusians who are part of an inter-galactic plot.

At a time when a much-discredited CSIS can say what it pleases about anyone without having to prove it, it is dangerous to even entertain the notion that these men are suspect. They have all agreed: if you have something against them, charge them, bring forward full disclosure of the case, and provide them with the same rights as anyone else should receive in a criminal trial. The fact that this has not been done says nothing about national security or potential risk; rather, it speaks to the complete lack of an evidentiary foundation for the CSIS allegations, which are based on speculation, feelings, potential associations, and racist paranoia.

Mahmoud Jaballah (married with six children, held since August 2001 in Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto). He is the principal of an Islamic school. Imprisoned and tortured seven times, but never charged with anything in Egypt, he and his family came to Canada seeking a better life. Mr. Jaballah was arrested on a security certificate in 1999, but actually won against the odds, and after the certificate was quashed, he was released after nine months in detention. CSIS was not happy with this result, so they had him re-arrested on a second certificate in a public take-down at the school where he is principal in August 2001, two days before a scheduled refugee hearing. He has been held ever since, even though CSIS admits they have no new evidence on him, only a new interpretation of old evidence already dismissed. Jaballah's recent request for bail was turned down largely on the basis of secret evidence. Despite the Canadian government's acknowledgement that Jaballah faces a substantial risk of torture and worse if deported to Egypt, the government is still trying to have him removed from Canada, in violation of international and Canadian law.

Mohammad Mahjoub (married, with three children, held since June 2000 in Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto). He too was tortured while in Egypt, but was never charged or tried for any offence while there. Interested in agriculture, he came to Canada and was accepted as a convention refugee. He worked long hours at a variety of jobs as he struggled to start a family. CSIS interviewed him on numerous occasions, and attempted to interview his wife behind his back. During the CSIS interviews, he was never informed that he had the right to have a lawyer present. No verbatim transcripts of the interviews were taken and no recording was made. He was asked questions such as what he thought of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. He was repeatedly asked whether he knew a particular individual. When he would say no, he would be asked again and again, in a manner which implied he was not telling the truth. No translator was made available for three of the four interviews, and Mahjoub's wife, who is not a certified translator, was pressed into service for the interviews. This is the shaky basis on which a case was built against him. Despite the Canadian government's acknowledgement that Mahjoub faces a substantial risk of torture and worse if deported to Egypt, the government is still trying to have him removed from Canada, in violation of international and Canadian law. He has two young children who, during jail visits, try to get through the thick glass to kiss and hug their father, whom they have touched only once since his detention.

Hassan Almrei (single, held since October 2001 in Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto). He has spent his time in solitary confinement, defined almost universally as cruel and unusual punishment. Indeed, Supreme Court Justice J. Cory stated in R. v. Shubley [1990] that "the imposition of a year or more of solitary confinement could probably not withstand a Charter challenge that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment," But the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in February, 2005 that calling Hassan's detention "indefinite" was "premature," and refused to view his endless incarceration in solitary confinement as a Charter violation. A refugee from Syria, he won a temporary stay of deportation during the winter of 2004 to his country of origin, where he would likely be tortured and killed. In November 2003, Maher Arar released a statement pointing out that Almrei's fate would be worse than his if returned to Syria. Almrei went on a 39-day hunger strike in fall 2003 to protest the lack of heat in his solitary confinement cell and to demand shoes. He eventually won both. His request for bail was turned down based almost entirely on secret evidence. An avid reader and fan of Martin Luther King, Jr., he wants to get back to his life as a restauranteur providing sumptuous Middle Eastern foods.

Mohamed Harkat (married, held since December 2002 in Ottawa Detention Centre). He was arrested on International Human Rights Day, 2002, and is currently held at the Ottawa Detention Centre. An Algerian refugee married to Sophie Harkat, his security certificate hearing finally wrapped up in December, 2004, and he awaits a decision on whether the certificate is viewed by the Federal Court as "reasonable". The hearing was suspended in July, 2003 after two lawyers working on his case received a letter from the government threatening them with prosecution under the Canada Secrets Act (under which Ottawa reporter Juliet O'Neil's home was raided last fall). Harkat was, until his arrest, a hard-working member of Ottawa's immigrant underclass, pumping gas and delivering pizza for up to 18-hours a day.

Adil Charkaoui (married with two children, held since May 2003 at Riviere des Prairies Detention Centre in Montreal, released on fourth bail application, February 18, 2005). At the time of his arrest, he was studying teaching at the Univerity of Montreal. His wife is also a teacher, and the couple was planning to move back to Morocco with their two small children to teach, once he finished his degree. This dream is no longer possible. He came to Canada as a teenager with his parents and sister and is a Permanent Resident. Charkaoui was on threee occasions refused release on bail, and he launched a motion of bias against the federal court judge who is hearing his case. He has also launched a constitutional challenge to the security certificate. His case has been dogged by irregularities of process, particularly around the issue of protection, a decision that has dragged on for almost a year, despite the finding of Immigration Canada that he would now be at risk of cruel and unusual punishment, torture and even death if deported to Morocco. His three-year-old daughter loved playing hide and seek with him through the visiting glass at the prison. Adil's second child, Abdallah, was born during his detention.

Source: Homes not Bombs (, and Coalition for Justice for Adil Charkaoui (,