On February 22, the Canadian government issued new security certificates against the five Muslim men previously cited. However, they did not reissue a certificate against Manickavasangam Suresh, a Tamil supposedly linked to the Tamil Tigers. This time, the government amplified the reasons for the certificates. The details enumerated indicate considerable surveillance, including wiretapping of the men.
In its justification for the action against Hassan Almrei, the sole person of the five still in confinement, the most noteworthy new complaint is that he was found in a secure area of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, without authorization. One grounds for issuing the certificate is that he fought against the Russians in Afghanistan, something he has already acknowledged. It is not clear how his opposition to the Russians would make him suspect. He is also accused of forging ID.
Adil Charkaoui is charged with playing a major role in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He was also quoted, as previously leaked to the press, as telling authorities that, for al-Qaeda operations, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Complaints against Mohamed Harkat appear somewhat weaker. His support for the Islamic Salvation Front is not in dispute, but he left Algeria before 1992, when the Front took an Islamic position. The government claims that he spent time in Afghanistan, which he denies. It cites instances where he changed his story and used aliases at various times. Canada also claims that he supported an extremely violent and ruthless offshoot of the Islamic Salvation Front, the Armed Islamic Group. However, that group arose in 1992, the year after he left the country. Finally, he is quoted as having told someone in 1998 that he would be keeping a “low profile” till he gained status in Canada, but then he would be “ready.” The government gave a sinister interpretation to this alleged remark.
As has already been known, Mohammad Majoub worked for Osama bin Laden on a Sudanese farm. He is accused of maintaining contact with his boss from the farm at least as recently as 1998, as established by a letter, while he claimed to have had no contact with him since 1995.
Another man on certificate, Mahmoud Jaballah, is alleged to have told authorities that Majoub was the number two man in the Egyptian Islamist group, Vanguards of Conquest, which was headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda second in command.
Mahmoud Jaballah himself had previously been accused of being a communications conduit for attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa. Now the government claims to have heard him on a wiretap referring to al-Zawahiri as “the father.” The government also says that he dialled al-Zawahiri’s cell phone.
These more detailed allegations give the accused men a bit more to go on in preparing a defense, but at this point nothing is proven. As noted, at least some of the evidence against Harkat appears rather weak on its face.
Carleton accelerates Islamic studies
Carleton University in Ottawa will offer a minor in Muslim studies beginning this fall in response to increased demand. Some 50 students had to be turned away from two undergraduate courses on Islam last year because of the heavy demand. The increased interest in religion in general and Islam in particular has reversed the trend at Carleton, where because of little interest religion courses were severely cut back.
Mumtaz Akhtar, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, welcomed the move, but Shahbaz Ghazi, vice-president of the Carleton Muslim Student Association, echoed concerns expressed by European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. They would prefer Muslim scholars as instructors. Ramadan expressed the concern that Western scholars of Islam would slant their approach in the direction of focusing on terrorism and extremism.
Professor Leonard Librande, who is heading up the expanded program, said that Ramadan’s concerns are more applicable to some schools in the United States. Canadian scholars of Islam, he said, treat the subject more fairly, avoiding “some of the mistakes that earlier scholarship suffered.”
Israel boycotts Durban
Israel has announced that it will boycott the U.N. conference on racism in Durban next year. Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni spoke of “Canada’s courage” in declaring that it would not attend. Both were reacting to the experience of the 2001 conference in Durban, where many delegates spent much of the time attacking Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Some have called that conference anti-Semitic.
Trials chief falls on his sword
|Col Morris Davis|
So what effect will these events have on the trial of Canadian Omar Khadr, arrested in Afghanistan at age 15 as an enemy combatant? According to Lieut.-Commander William Kuebler, Khadr’s lawyer, not much. Haynes’ system, “designed to produce convictions,” is still in place. “The Guantanamo Bay military commission process does not provide a fair trial. It is a political process,” he charged.
In other news about the Khadr case, representatives of all three opposition parties in Parliament met with Kuebler on Parliament Hill to issue a joint statement calling for the Conservative government to take steps to bring Khadr back to Canada. At the same time, the Canadian Bar Association reiterated its call for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act on his behalf. The Bar Association also called for the closing of Guantanamo.
Alan Dershowitz, the controversial civil liberties lawyer who has obtained a measure of notoriety for advocating the use of “torture lite” in certain situations, voiced his agreement with the three opposition parties, and former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler called the Khadr case “a standing violation of international humanitarian law in general and of the fundamental principles of the rule of law in particular.” He also called for closing Guantanamo.