Former terror suspect goes free

OTTAWA — An electronic tracking bracelet was sliced from Hassan Almrei’s ankle Thursday after the government decided not to contest a decision to free the former terror suspect.

OTTAWA — An electronic tracking bracelet was sliced from Hassan Almrei’s ankle Thursday after the government decided not to contest a decision to free the former terror suspect.

Lorne Waldman, Almrei’s lawyer, says federal counsel opted not to try to pursue the matter in the appeal courts.

As a result, a Canada Border Services Agency official cut the tracking bracelet from Almrei, who is now free.

“I was hoping to be able to cut it off myself,” said Waldman. “But the CBSA came and removed it.”

in a decision issued late Thursday, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley said the national security certificate under which Almrei was being held had been officially quashed.

On Monday, Mosley struck down the certificate against the Syrian-born Almrei, arrested eight years ago on terror suspicions. But there was still a limited avenue of appeal.

Almrei spent seven years behind bars before moving to a Mississauga, Ont., townhouse last February under strict release conditions, including the tracking bracelet.

Border services arrived at the home Thursday to shut down surveillance cameras, remove wiretaps on his phone and switch off door alarm systems, Waldman said.

“He’s a free man.”

The government had been trying to deport Almrei on a security certificate — a little-used provision of the immigration law for removing suspected terrorists and spies.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan says he is reviewing the troubled certificate system, conceding it needs fixing. Another certificate case collapsed earlier this year and three remaining ones grind along slowly in the courts.

In tossing out Almrei’s certificate, Mosley said Monday there were reasonable grounds to believe he was a security danger when detained in October 2001 following terrorist attacks on the United States, but there are no longer grounds to support that belief today.

The judge upbraided the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for presenting an outdated view to the court “without considering whether the state of knowledge about the risks to national security posed by Islamic extremists had evolved” since Almrei was arrested.

The government could have tried to contest Mosley’s decision by asking that a question of law in the case be formally certified and heard in the Federal Court of Appeal.

Mosley said he would give both sides more time to put forward arguments on that matter.

However, Waldman said the government revealed during a case management meeting Thursday that it would not pursue the case further.

“One of the government lawyers said they weren’t seeking to certify.”

The government had argued the Syrian native’s travel, activities and involvement in a false-document ring were consistent with backers of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

Mosley said Almrei had undergone a change for the better, becoming a devout man since his days as an opportunist willing to sell forged documents.

Opponents say the certificate process is unfair because detainees are not given details of the allegations against them.

A case involving Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan native, fell apart recently when the government withdrew supporting evidence, saying its disclosure would reveal sensitive intelligence sources and methods.

Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, both Egyptian, were arrested in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and Mohamed Harkat of Algeria seven years ago this month. Their certificate cases are still before the courts.

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