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Kassim Mohamed's battle with secrecy

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    Kassim Mohamed s battle with secrecy Oct. 1, 2006 Toronto Star Editorial
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2006
      Kassim Mohamed's battle with secrecy
      Oct. 1, 2006
      Toronto Star Editorial
      http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1159616113575&call_page=TS_EditorialOpinion&call_pageid=968256290204&call_pagepath=Editorial/Opinion&pubid=968163964505


      Kassim Mohamed is struggling to clear his name in court, after being
      investigated as a possible terrorist. And his battle should concern
      everyone who cares about civil rights.

      He is a Canadian citizen and former Toronto bus driver. The Royal
      Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
      investigated him in 2004 when he was noticed filming the Yonge-Bloor
      subway. He says he was innocently compiling footage of popular city
      sites, such as the CN Tower, for his family abroad.

      Police questioned him, his family, friends and colleagues. They pored
      through his films, computer, and garbage. At every turn, he
      co-operated. They never charged him with a crime.

      But when he went to Egypt to visit family he was detained for two
      weeks, blindfolded, shackled and kept incommunicado, missing the birth
      of his child.

      He was also detained briefly in Greece, on a prior trip, while en
      route to Egypt. At that time authorities in Athens pressured him to
      return to Canada, where he was met by police and interrogated.

      Now he is suing Ottawa for $1 million, saying officials negligently
      gave information to Greece and Egypt that violated his rights. He also
      wants a letter affirming he is not a suspect.

      But Mohamed's bid to hold Ottawa to account in open court is being
      frustrated by Attorney-General Vic Toews's office. Citing national
      security, officials do not want to disclose relevant information to
      Mohamed, or to anyone else.

      Under Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, the government officials
      have asked Federal Court to hold a secret hearing to consider their
      request.

      The Toronto Star is challenging the veil of secrecy that applies in
      such cases.

      Federal Court Chief Justice Allan Lutfy is hearing this challenge.

      But regardless of how Justice Lutfy may rule, Parliament should do its
      part to rectify draconian provisions in the law that make a mockery of
      the principle that courts must be open, and accountable.

      Section 38 lets the attorney-general ask Federal Court to ban the
      disclosure of "potentially injurious" or "sensitive" information about
      Canada's foreign relations, national security or national defence.

      In these cases:

      #
      The public has no right even to know that a Section 38 application has
      been made. In Mohamed's case, Ottawa authorized disclosure. It did not
      have to. Nor is Ottawa obliged to say where or when the hearing will
      take place. It hasn't.

      #
      The hearing is closed to the public, even though innocuous information
      may be given to the court. Ottawa can provide what's known as ex parte
      information to the judge alone, in secret, to protect national
      security. It can also provide non-sensitive information to the judge,
      Mohamed and his lawyer. But no party to the proceedings, including
      Mohamed, can tell anyone else about them.

      #
      The media are not allowed to know anything about these hearings, let
      alone attend them or publish anything that goes on during the hearings.

      Five years after 9/11, Parliament must use its current review of the
      Anti-Terrorism Act to correct this lopsided law, which improperly
      favours secrecy over civil rights.

      Whenever Section 38 is invoked, the public must be told.

      Section 38 proceedings that do not endanger security should be open to
      the public. There is no need for blanket secrecy.

      And the media must be able to report on what is said during these
      proceedings.

      Anything less makes a mockery of Canada's open court system,
      discourages accountability by the police and security services and
      ultimately threatens our civil rights.

      *********************************************************************

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