Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.
After 13 years of pure hell and continued injustice, the struggle continues for security certificate detainee and my husband Mohamed Harkat. Sixteen months of silence followed the second Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision that deemed security certificates “imperfect” and secret hearings “uncomfortable” for the SCC judges, however still constitutional.
Mohamed received his deportation papers three weeks ago in the middle of an election campaign.
Because of the severity of allegations against him and according to Amnesty International, he is now at great risk of incommunicado detention, torture or death if returned to Algeria. ‘Presumed terrorist’ is the most damaging label someone can ever be given.
For years, I had refused to talk about the subject of deportation because I was confident in the justice system, and always believed that justice would eventually prevail. This time, it’s serious and very personal. Other than the deportation fight itself, we no longer have legal remedies. The large cloud that’s been hanging over Moe’s head just got bigger and darker and the situation is real, urgent, disturbing and scary all in one.
We are fortunate that his family, supporters and I are ready to fight so they never take him away. The reality is, I need him here as much as he needs me to fight for him.
I’ve read a lot of comments about me over the years: “the poor and naïve wife” or “Sophie Harkat is merely one of the many sad, Western women clinging to a jihadist husband at all costs.” Guess what? I don’t care. If it was your loved one, you’d be doing the same. It’s a question of fundamental justice. Secret trials have no place in a democratic country. Our committee has been warning Canadians that it could eventually happen to them, and then Bill C-51 happened. Don’t start crying wolf when they come for you or a loved one. It’s already too late.
It all started on Dec. 10, 2002 — Human Rights Day — after Mohamed was arrested by dozens of officers and thrown in jail without charge or access to the evidence and his legal team was kept in the dark.
Mohamed spent 43 months in detention without any human contact with his family, except through a thick window, one year in solitary confinement and then was released on bail under the toughest bail conditions in Canadian history. That was the price of his freedom.
For seven and a half years, I became a full-time jailer and prisoner in my home. Moe wore a GPS bracelet around his ankle 24/7 and had to plug himself in a wall to recharge two hours a day. There were two surveillance cameras inside our home and Moe was never to be left alone inside or outside our home.
Mail and phone calls were intercepted; all visitors, including our family members (new born nephew and 80 year old grand-mother) had to be pre-approved by the CBSA. Mohamed was only allowed three outings per week for four hours, each pre-approved in advance by 48-96 hours.
He was followed by an army of CBSA bulletproof-wearing officers and CBSA vehicles were parked in front of our home. We had no access to technology in our home including cell phones — only my computer, which was kept under lock and key at all times and the list goes on.
Many times Moe offered to go back to jail because it was too hard on his loved ones. Never!
During those years, we’ve had to share public washrooms, my gynaecology appointments, trips to the dentist and a change room because he could never be left alone. He was denied attendance at his own 40th birthday party, followed at the grocery, restaurant, public bus, movie, family and friend’s homes, at my grandfather’s funeral and everywhere we went.
Imagine the constant sound of a walkie talkie following you. Imagine having no more personal space or private life. Imagine your home being raided by 16 CBSA officers and three sniffing dogs a few days before your hearing only to be left without explanation.
For 13 years, we have been dehumanized, humiliated, put into question, even under oath. You testify:, ou’re a liar; You don’t testify, you are hiding something. Every word, every movement, every breath, even those loud sighs of my despair when CBSA was breathing down my neck put into question, not just Moe, his family and friends. Every aspect of our private lives exposed and scrutinized by the court and the press. It’s our words against theirs, fighting a giant. Judged by so many who do not know us.
Ours was called a marriage of convenience by the court and the media. There is nothing convenient about this struggle. Years of sacrifices, all in the name of freedom and justice. We married for better for worst. A few months short of our 15th wedding anniversary, 13 of those were hard.
We stuck to our vows, and I will continue to be behind him until he clears his name and is safe and free.
The saddest part is that Moe came to Canada for a better life and loves this country. He considers himself Canadian. He knows nothing else and does not want to be anywhere else. His roots and his family are here. He must stay and we are obligated to keep him safe.
Regardless of the last Supreme Court decision in May of 2014, many groups and organizations continue to believe that secret trials are unconstitutional. The addition of Special Advocates (security-cleared lawyers who can see some of the evidence but cannot access informants and human sources and talk to the detainee) did not change a thing. Advocates have said repeatedly that their hands were tied. We went from one secretive process to another.
How is this justice? Being held without ever being charged? Never having access to the evidence against you? All original material and evidence for your case destroyed by CSIS?
The informant, who is the main source of the allegations, failied his lie detector test and can never be cross-examined in public or behind closed doors by security-cleared lawyers where no one would see his face or know his name. The Harper government gave the green light to allow the use of evidence that comes or derives from torture.
To put is mildly, a security certificate is like being accused of murder, except you don’t know who you killed, when it happened and how you did it and you’re asked to defend yourself. How can this be acceptable for anyone? I challenge anyone who would accept that for themselves? Let’s trade shoes for one day.
Let’s look on the bright side, Moe is still here, the GPS is off, we have more freedom, we have a loving family and supporters, we have a terrific immigration lawyer, and we have each other. The truth is, he cannot get a job because of the allegations on his back or because of the severe bail restrictions that prevents him from working around any type of technology.
We no longer have financial assistance for his case and have to pay for it ourselves. Our long-time, dedicated public counsel is on an extended sick leave. Moe suffers from PTSD and he faces deportation to torture. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty furious, I’ve had enough.
I fear for the future where we are allowed to arrest and detain more individuals based on allegations, associations and uncontested hearsay. I worry about someone’s life being ruined by an informant whose credibility and reliability can never be tested. I worry about a court that continues to base their decision on the lowest standard of proof or on reasonable grounds to believe someone could be a threat. It’s happening right here and will continue to happen.
I had a major reality check two weeks ago while I attending a protest against Harper. Many were pointing at my banner asking “who this?” One person even asked “Where’s Moe now, did he die?” Countless others told me “I’m so sorry this is happening to you and I wish you the best” without asking how they could help or as if nothing could be done.
We don’t need your pity; we need you to take action now. Do it for Moe, for me and for others going through the same struggle. Do it in the name of justice. We can make a difference.
Make a much-needed donation to help with our high legal costs here and sign our petition. Or you can organize a screening of the award-winning documentary The Secret Trial Five and invite us to speak to your group, local, classroom.
Contact your MP. Spread the word. Speak up! Public support and pressure is crucial to our fight and to other causes. Thank you to all our supporters across the country and abroad. We couldn’t’ do it without you.
Sophie Harkat has become a Human Rights activist overnight after her husband, Mohamed Harkat (an Algerian refugee) was arrested under a security certificate on December 10, 2002 (International Human Rights Day). Her life was turned upside down and every aspect of her life affected by the arrest of her husband, but refused to be silenced by this injustice. She has lectured for many universities, unions, groups and organizations across Canada the past 13 years, and written several pieces for various magazines/papers as well as participated in numerous documentaries including award-winning The Secret Trial Five.