Matthew Behrens

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Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who coordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. His column "Taking Liberties" examines connections between national security and civil liberties. Behrens has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. "national security" profiling for many years.

Mohamed Harkat condemned by a secret system of 'justice'

It was ironic that on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, family, friends, and supporters of secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat gathered with him and his wife, Sophie, to weep and reflect on three federal court decisions against him. The latest decision upheld the regime of secret hearings and judicially sanctioned rendition to torture; and Harkat's supporter's recommitted to ending what domestic and international critics have labelled a star chamber process.

Due to a system based on secret allegations that neither accused nor lawyers can contest, Harkat has, for eight years, been subject to a "security certificate," a measure by which individuals can be detained, held indefinitely without charge, and ultimately be deported, despite the risk of torture.

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Ottawa professor fights extradition for 1980 bomb attack in France

Like a number of Muslim men in Canada, Ottawa's Dr. Hassan Diab is forced to wear the ultimate symbol of state control: a GPS monitoring unit.

This tracking device, for which the impoverished and currently unemployed university professor was forced to pay $30,000 for the first year (and now $1,500 monthly), is permanently affixed to his leg, tracking his every move under strict house arrest.

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Sanctions-busting telethon supporters risked jail for Abdelrazik

Abousfian  Abdelrazik returned home to Canada from Sudan on June 27, 2009.

Viewers tuning in to Wednesday evening's rabble.ca videocast from Montreal could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled across a surreal version of the infamous PBS fund drives that annually dominate American airwaves.

Indeed, the perky pitches from energetic hosts, a phone bank of pledge takers, and a large map of Canada with pins marking the city of each donation would have seemed familiar to anyone who enjoys public television or radio.

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Does Ottawa believe the Salvadoran government is terrorist?

Photo courtesy of Matthew Behrens

It was down to the wire, but last week, Salvador Sánchez Cerén emerged as the next president of El Salvador on behalf of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front). A legal political party since 1992, the FMLN, under which Sánchez Cerén was himself a commanding general, had previously been a political-military coalition resisting the Salvadoran death squad dictatorships whose brutal U.S.-sponsored wars of the 1980s claimed over 75,000 lives.

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CSIS still the cat in the birdcage

Photo: rubyblossom./flickr

A few years ago, Canada's bird lovers came in for some well-deserved looks of bemusement when many wondered why their cute little budgies and canaries kept disappearing every time a cat was placed inside their birdcages. After all, it was argued, cats were subject to significant and robust oversight mechanisms such as the Feline Activities Review Committee, to ensure the birds would be safe from purring predators.

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Canada's government-sponsored law-breakers 'push the border out'

Photo: helga tawil souri/flickr

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I recently attended an unfortunate anniversary event: it had been one year since the deportation of a family who were terrified of what awaited them if forcibly removed from Canada. Despite the passage of time, the emotions were still raw, tears flowed and hearts ached. Clearly, this deportation was traumatic not only for those directly forced onto a plane, but also for a whole community that awoke to find their neighbours had literally disappeared from their street, school, community and country.

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Taking liberties: Santa Claus rejects NORAD escort, may be placed on no-fly list

Photo: Matt and Cyndi Maxson/flickr

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In a little-noticed news release from the North Pole, a jolly senior citizen has asked that his image not be co-opted this holiday season by the Canadian War Department and NORAD. In addition, the gentleman, who identified himself as Santa Claus, also refused the militarized escort that NORAD said would be tracking his annual flight around the world.

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Taking liberties: Why do we jail women who choose to live?

Photo: banlon1964/flickr

Trigger alert, this story contains disturbing reports of assault.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization released a comprehensive study that found more than a third of all women worldwide -- 35.6 per cent -- will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The great majority of this violence is committed by intimate male partners in acts that can only be described as domestic or home-grown terrorism. It's the latest in an endless stream of similar reports on this form of domestic terror, but Canada and other governments refuse to both recognize the extent of the crisis and respond accordingly.

The Extradition Case of Dr. Hassan Diab

Image: Justice fo Hassan Diab

Hassan Diab is a mild-mannered Ottawa university professor with a passion for history and culinary skills that surely the French would appreciate. In fact, the French government has invested much energy to have Diab brought to Paris, but not for his vegetarian kebbah.

Rather, Dr. Diab is sought for questioning about his alleged role in a 1980 Paris bombing that claimed four lives. Unfortunately for Diab, the process behind the allegations could almost be a French farce -- worthy of Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame.

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Supreme Court's secret hearing and Judge Nadon's Charter dismissal

Photo: wyliepoon/flickr

Just before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court of Canada held two days of hearings regarding the fate of Mohamed Harkat, detained in prison and under house arrest for over a decade by a secret trial security certificate, the reasons for which he has never been allowed to know and challenge. October 10 was a public hearing that he could attend, while October 11 was one he was not invited to, nor were his lawyers, the media, or the public. In fact, the eight judges of the Supreme Court disappeared to hold a secret hearing somewhere in Canada.

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