OTTAWA – The wife of an Ottawa man accused of terrorist ties says border agents have removed an electronic tracking bracelet from his ankle.
Canada Border Services Agency took the tracking device off late Wednesday as part of a court-ordered relaxation of Mohamed Harkat’s release conditions, Sophie Harkat said Thursday.
It has been more than a decade since Harkat, a refugee from Algeria, was arrested under a national security certificate on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent — an accusation he denies.
Harkat, 44, has essentially been living under house arrest with stringent conditions — including the tracking bracelet — for seven years.
Sophie Harkat and her husband arrived home Wednesday to a phone message telling them to come to a border services office to have the bracelet removed.
“He feels like he’s no longer an animal with a leash,” she said in interview. “His eyes were just sparkling last night. And we were high-fiving each other.”
In a ruling released Thursday, Federal Court of Canada Justice Simon Noel said Harkat may also possess a basic mobile phone for calls and text messaging, and a home computer connected to the Internet.
He must agree to give the border agency the mobile phone number and access to records of communication retained by the service provider. Harkat must also allow the agency access to his computer for monthly inspection.
“It goes without saying that Mr. Harkat shall not use his computer to access jihad sites or any other sites of this nature and shall not communicate with anyone who may have direct or indirect connections with jihad or terrorism,” says Noel’s ruling.
In addition, Harkat will be allowed to travel outside the national capital area, through he must provide five working days’ notice to the border agency, along with his itinerary.
Previously, he could not leave the area without permission and was denied access to a mobile phone or a computer with Internet connectivity. The federal government was willing to allow Harkat a phone, but balked at the idea of giving him access to the Internet or removing his tracking bracelet.
The time for those restrictions has passed, Noel concluded.
“The initial danger has diminished considerably. Mr. Harkat has complied through time with the strict conditions,” he wrote in his ruling.
“Conditions of release therefore have to be adapted to this new favourable reality for Mr. Harkat.”
The judge noted that since his marriage to Sophie, Harkat had adapted nicely to his new environment.
“He is a well-known person who has developed a stable relationship and new friends. He owes a lot to his family and friends, and he is not in a position to disappoint them by breaching any of the remaining conditions of release. The consequences for him are too important.”
Harkat’s case has been tied up in the courts since the former pizza delivery man’s arrest on Dec. 10, 2002.
Security certificates have been used since 1991 to deport non-citizens accused of being terrorists or spies. The person named in a certificate receives only a summary of the case against them, which critics say violates the tenets of fundamental justice.
In October, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a challenge of the security certificate system brought by Harkat and his lawyers.