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Coalition renews call for end to secret trials

VANCOUVER - The federal government must abolish security certificates and apologize for its treatment of five men detained under the controversial process, say human and legal rights advocates on a cross-country tour to build public support.

“Secret trials are unacceptable for all Canadians who value the rule of law,” said Fernand Dechamps of the Justice for Adil Charkaoui Coalition. “Our security lies in the defence of the rights of all.”

Montreal resident Adil Charkaoui arrived in British Columbia this week to speak about his own experience under a security certificate and his attempts to clear his name.

“I want to talk directly to Canadians -- to show them that I was treated unfairly by our government,” he said at a press conference yesterday with supporters from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Council of Canadians and Amnesty International.

Charkaoui was arrested and detained in 2003 under the security certificate process, a special deportation proceeding used only against non-citizens. The accused are usually denied the right to see evidence against them and can face indefinite detention.

Four other men -- Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, Hassan Almrei and Mohamed Harkat -- have also been imprisoned in Canada using security certificates in recent years. All remain under some form of house arrest, monitoring or detention.

After being released from prison in 2006, Charkaoui continued to face strict house arrest conditions, many of which were finally removed by the Federal Court of Canada last year.

“It’s a lot of progress from a small cell of two metres to [being allowed to fly on a] plane,” Charkaoui said.

However, he still faces some restrictions, including a requirement to wear an anklet monitoring device. He also must advise the Canadian Border Service Agency 48 hours in advance of any travel plans outside Montreal.

His coalition of supporters is calling for the complete removal of all these restrictions and a vindication of his name. They are also demanding a full public apology from the federal government and the abolition of the security certificates.

In 2007, Charkaoui successfully challenged the constitutionality of security certificates and the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the process violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In response, the federal government introduced amended legislation and reissued the security certificates against the five men.

But advocates say the new law is still unconstitutional and another challenge has been filed - expected to be heard in September.

“This fight is not over,” said Dechamps.

Charkaoui will speak at a public forum this evening at 6:30 p.m. at the SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings, Vancouver.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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