Stripping criminal pardon from alleged terrorist was constitutional: feds

OTTAWA — Parole officials did not trample on the rights of an accused terrorist by revoking his criminal pardon based on the unproven charges he faces, the federal government argues in newly filed court documents.

OTTAWA — Parole officials did not trample on the rights of an accused terrorist by revoking his criminal pardon based on the unproven charges he faces, the federal government argues in newly filed court documents.

There was “no abuse of process” when the Parole Board of Canada moved last year to pull Raed Jaser’s pardon for various convictions after he was charged with plotting to derail a Via passenger train, federal lawyers say in the court submission.

Jaser, 36, is asking the Federal Court of Canada to reverse the parole board’s decision, saying officials made a “perverse and capricious” finding that he was no longer of good character due to the new terrorism charges.

“A charge is nothing but an unproven allegation,” Jaser’s counsel say in their filing with the court. “On its own, it does not constitute evidence of the truth of the allegations and, thus, cannot constitute evidence that this Applicant is no longer of good conduct.”

He is also challenging the constitutionality of a section of the Criminal Records Act that officials used to revoke his pardon.

Jaser, a Toronto resident, and Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal face terrorism-related charges for allegedly plotting to derail a Via passenger train.

Arrested in April last year, the accused plotters were said to be targeting a train that travels from New York City to Ontario, operated by U.S. rail service Amtrak south of the border and Via Rail in Canada.

After coming to Canada with his family, Jaser ran into trouble with the law but later applied for a criminal pardon, now known as a record suspension.

In 2009, he was pardoned for uttering threats and various fraud-related convictions between 1997 and 2001.

Following media reports of Jaser’s arrest in the purported train sabotage plot, the parole board contacted the RCMP and soon after received confirmation of the charges. In June 2013, the board then informed Jaser of its intention to withdraw his pardon, inviting him to make representations.

Jaser’s lawyer responded the following month, objecting to the proceedings.

A week later the parole board decided to revoke Jaser’s pardon.

A pardon, or record suspension, does not erase a conviction but can make it easier for someone to get a job and travel abroad.

Under the Criminal Records Act, the parole board may revoke a pardon when the offender is convicted of a new crime of if the board is satisfied the person is “no longer of good conduct.”

In his submission, Jaser argues the process places him in a Catch-22 — either give up his right to remain silent and address the pending charges, even though an actual criminal trial may be months or years away — or tell the parole board nothing and be stripped of his pardon.

The government counters that criminal law rights that allow an accused to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination do not apply to the administrative proceedings of the parole board.

In addition, the board is entitled to consider pending criminal charges in carrying out its duties, even though the facts have not been tested in court, the federal brief says.

Federal lawyers also reject assertions that the law in question is “unconstitutionally vague.”

“It establishes an intelligible standard for both those who will be governed by it and those who must enforce or apply it.”

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