Suspected Egyptian terrorist decries 'harsh' bail terms
Published Monday, December 5, 2011 5:21PM EST
TORONTO - Deciding that an Egyptian man might engage in terrorist acts unless he remains under strict controls was guesswork based on potentially unreliable information, Federal Court heard Monday.
In cross-examining an agent for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub's lawyer hammered at the basis for branding him an ongoing threat to national security.
The agent, who can only be identified as No. 4, drafted an updated assessment last month indicating Mahjoub remained potentially dangerous.
The assessment was based on Mahjoub's background and previous activities, including being a senior member of an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group, the witness said.
"He was not a pawn or follower," said No. 4, who testified from a courtroom in Ottawa.
"He has a certain pedigree. He has a certain deeply held belief system."
Deciding that Mahjoub is still dangerous "is not guesswork" but an evaluation of those and other factors, some of which can't be disclosed, No. 4 said.
"CSIS never makes mistakes or do they occasionally?" lawyer Paul Slansky asked at one point.
"CSIS is made up of people," the agent replied, adding, "Is CSIS infallible? No."
Outside court, Mahjoub said the government's justification for keeping him under rigid house arrest is based on false information obtained by torture.
"It is very harsh for me and for my family," Mahjoub said.
"All of us are suffering. I feel I've been treated very badly in this society."
Mahjoub, 51, of Toronto, came to Canada in 1995. He was first detained in 2000 under a national security certificate, which allows for indefinite detention of a foreigner without charge or trial.
He spent more than seven years since that in jail, and the rest of the time has been under stringent house arrest that involves wearing a tracking device, a curfew and constant surveillance of his residence.
One expert submission to the court described the release conditions as among "the most invasive in Canadian legal history -- prying into every recess" of his life.
He is now seeking to have his release conditions lifted or at least eased.
The government alleges that Mahjoub recruited others to take part in assassination cells in Egypt, and was involved in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995.
Ottawa wants to send the married father back to Egypt, but he has staved off deportation by arguing he would be tortured if sent back.
He has previously argued successfully that some of the information being used against him in Canadian courts was derived from torture.
Slansky pressed the agent on what gave him "reasonable" grounds to conclude Mahjoub still posed a threat that required all conditions to stay in place.
In response, No. 4 conceded the service has no fresh information to justify its view that Mahjoub remains a threat that can only be mitigated by his detention or conditions on his release.
The agent did tell Judge Edmond Blanchard that Canada's spy service has seen no evidence Mahjoub has renounced his extremist beliefs.
"He has the potential to re-engage in those activities," No. 4 said.
"The threat has not changed."
Because the current situation in Egypt is "dynamic" and "tumultuous," it is "rife with opportunity" for people to resort to violence for political and religious objectives, he said.
"The situation in Egypt is volatile."
Mahjoub is still contesting the reasonableness of the national security certificate itself in a separate hearing.
"The threat assessment itself didn't allege I'm dangerous to Canadian society or any other person," said Mahjoub, who heard the agent testify via a video-linked courtroom monitor in Toronto.
Mahjoub and members of the public could not see the agent.
The hearing is expected to last for several more days.