TORONTO, May 11, 2010 – In yet another blow aimed at the morale of the beleaguered family of secret security certificate trial detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, three carloads of agents from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), assisted by Metro Toronto Police, conducted a raid on the Jaballah family residence on April 14 on the pretext of looking for the two youngest boys’ clear plastic toy guns, commonly played with by children across Canada and readily accessible at most Walmarts, Canadian Tires, and dollar stores.

Apparently, agents who conduct 24/7 wiretaps of the family phone learned about the toy guns while listening in on the children’s telephone conversations, and immediately sprung into action in the name of Canada’s national security.

As a result of the raid, Canada is apparently a much safer place to live, and the Government of Canada is seeking to have revoked all bail monies posted for Mr. Jaballah.

The timing of the raid is curious, given that a new judge is set to begin looking at his security certificate file, and a long-awaited decision on relaxing Mr. Jaballah’s house arrest’s conditions could come any day now. The raid could have been intended to illustrate to the judge making that decision the perceived “need” for continued draconian conditions. It could also have signalled a cautionary note to the new judge expected to take over the Jaballah file later this month.

Government behavior in past house raids, which generally take place at critical moments in these cases in an apparent effort to prejudice the view of the detainee in the eyes of the court, would tend to support such theories. (For more on how CBSA uses house arrest monitoring as a massive fishing expedition, click here.)

Jaballah: Three years of house arrest

Mr. Jaballah, since the spring of 2007 living under some of the most severe house arrest conditions ever witnessed in Canadian history, is currently challenging a secret hearing security certificate, under which the scandal-plagued Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has come forward with a series of secret allegations that need not be proven in a court of law, but rather are heard in secret, in the absence of Mr. Jaballah, and then judged on the lowest standards of any court in Canada. He faces deportation to torture in Egypt, despite Canada’s binding commitment never to deport someone to torture.

Mr. Jaballah was originally arrested in 1999, but won his case after seven months of detention without charge; he was re-arrested in 2001, with CSIS noting there was no new information against Mr. Jaballah, only a “new interpretation” of old information that had already been dismissed by the Federal Court as not credible two years earlier. He spent over six years in detention before his transfer to house arrest.

The effects of house arrest on Mr. Jaballah and his family have been devastating. His children have testified about how house arrest has ruined their lives, made them objects of suspicion amongst their potential friends, and created horribly awkward moments during government-approved “outings.”

“I was with the family for six hours immediately following the raid, and the kids were especially agitated,” says Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada. “They kept wondering if the agents would return, if they would take more of their toys, if they would take their Dad back to jail.

“The government makes much of the fact that they timed their raid for when the kids would be at school, but the traumatic effects are not in any way decreased. Knowing that armed men have been rifling through your personal effects in your bedroom cannot but have a strongly negative impact on the life of a teenaged girl or a pre-teen boy. Mr. Jaballah has not been found to be in breach of his conditions for over three years: why couldn’t they have called him and discussed the matter, or contacted his lawyers and figured out a more civil way of protecting national security from the kids’ toys?”

While CBSA agents are authorized by the Federal Court to enter the residences of those under house arrest, their visits are supposed to be for specific purposes to ensure Mr. Jaballah is complying with the conditions of his house arrest, and not generalized fishing expeditions (as has been witnessed in last year’s over-the-top house raid against secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat of Ottawa).

Children’s bedrooms searched

Even though Mr. Jaballah agreed that he would take the agents directly to the toys in question, officers spent over an hour searching the children’s bedrooms (aged 11-16), during which they also seized a PSP portable video game player belonging to the Jaballah family’s youngest child, as well as a computer that was in one of the children’s rooms. While the CBSA claims that computer should not have been there, Ahmad Jaballah, the oldest of six Jaballah children, had brought the computer to court some 18 months earlier, explained its location, and walked out of court with the same computer, without experiencing any objections from the judge and the government lawyers. To have CBSA claim a year and a half later that this computer now posed a breach of the conditions seems rather rich.

Mr. Jaballah also expressed concerns that CBSA agents were reading documents from a box that he clearly identified as confidential legal files provided by Mr. Jaballah’s lawyers, and that he had to demand twice that they stop reading from them. Such violations of solicitor-client privilege are common in security certificate cases; it was revealed last year that CSIS had been listening in on over two years’ of solicitor-client calls between secret trial detainees and their lawyers, in response to which a federal court judge simply said there was nothing to be done, and that people had to move on.

In a normal court of law, such government malfeasance would be enough to dismiss the case, but in these secret hearings, anything goes, especially from the government side, as the law stipulates that anything not normally admissible in a court of law can be entered as “evidence” in one of these secret hearings.

Opponents of the regime have sought its abolition for close to a decade; in the cases of the secret trial five, two of those individuals — Adil Charkaoui of Montreal, and Hassan Almrei of Toronto — had their cases dismissed within the last year, and Mohamed Harkat’s case awaits final submissions later this month.

While lawyers for detainee Mohammad Mahjoub have been in court the past few weeks seeking to exclude information gleaned from torture (which one wouldn’t think would be necessary given Canada’s binding legal obligations never to be complicit in torture), Mr. Jaballah won’t have a chance to have his certificate considered until the fall of this year.

“Why do they treat our family home like it is a jail?” Mr. Jaballah asked, recalling that when he was incarcerated, such searches of his cell were common. “But this is my home, this is where my wife and children live. They should have more respect for them.”

Now that the issue is before the Federal Court, Mr. Jaballah hopes that there will be some clarification of the search protocol, perhaps even a caveat that a search warrant and proper procedures need to be followed, in tune with the way the rest of Canadian society is supposed to operate.

For more information: Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, email us or call (416) 651-5800.


Cathryn Atkinson

Cathryn Atkinson is the former News and Features Editor for Her career spans more than 25 years in Canada and Britain, where she lived from 1988 to 2003. Cathryn has won five awards...