. . . . .
High-security centre to house terror suspects
Call it Guantanamo North, or perhaps Guantanamo Lite. What's for sure is that the new high-security detention centre being built near Kingston to house foreign terrorism suspects is exceedingly small, with space for just six inmates. As things stand, that should pose no problem for Canada's security needs. Just four people -- all Arab nationals -- are believed detained under the government's controversial security certificates. All are resisting deportation on grounds that they fear persecution if sent home.
A fifth man is free on bail in Montreal, subject to severe restrictions. None of the five has been charged with a crime.
The self-contained unit, under construction behind the walls of maximum-security Millhaven Penitentiary, is due to open at the end of March and all four suspects will be going there, including Mohamed Harkat, Mohammed Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei.
Correctional Service Canada spokeswoman Michele Pilon-Santilli said yesterday. "It's within the grounds of Millhaven but is a totally separate facility, being built specifically to house security-certificate detainees," she said. "[Prisoners] will be kept separate from other inmates at all times; there will be absolutely no contact."
Authorities would not say what the new facility is costing to build, or disclose the size of its cells. Each inmate will be held separately, CBSA spokeswoman Cara Prest said, with visitors subject to the same scrutiny as those who enter the rest of Millhaven.Word of the new prison-within-a-prison follows a recent report by a United Nations human-rights group. After touring Canada last year, the group said it was gravely concerned" about the use of security certificates. Chiefly at issue, it concluded, are the detainees' right to a fair hearing and their ability to challenge the evidence used to hold them, portions of which are often kept secret. Nor is there any mechanism for a judicial review of the circumstances of incarceration.
The unit is a response to a request by the Ontario government, which currently oversees the inmates' detention, Ms. Pilon-Santilli said. "This was based on needs. If and when there are more [detainees], we'll look at them on a case-by-case basis."
Ottawa lawyer Matthew Webber, counsel for long-time detainee Mohammed Harkat, voiced dismay at his client's prospects.
"One might view this obviously remedial step as an alternative to bail,"he said. "It's an obvious recognition of the fact that the current circumstances are unacceptable, but this is really just a Band-Aid."The certificates pertain only to non-citizens believed to pose a security threat. Canadians accused of terror-related offences must be charged under the Criminal Code. All four men are suspected of being allied to Islamic extremists: Algerian-born Mr. Harkat, a refugee claimant who worked at an Ottawa gas station before his arrest in December, 2002, is being held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. Syrian-born Hassan Almrei, imprisoned since October, 2001, is at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre. Egyptian-born Mohammed Mahjoub, arrested in June, 2000, and Mahmoud Jaballah, also of Egypt, have been detained since August, 2001. They, too, are behind bars at Metro West. Adil Charkaoui of Morocco, who was held from May, 2003, to February, 2005, is free on bail in Montreal.
Local man held as suspected terrorist could be transferred to facility near
Suspected terrorist Mohamed Harkat could be moving digs this spring when a new jail for those being held on security certificates opens next door to Millhaven Penitentiary.
Corrections Canada officials confirmed yesterday that construction of a new, self-contained, six-person facility is expected to be completed by the end of March next to the Bath institution, 150 km southwest of Ottawa.
Harkat, who's been held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre under less-than-ideal conditions since his arrest in December 2002, would be among those transferred there shortly thereafter.
Egyptian detainees Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah as well as Syrian Hassan Almrei are among the other men being held under security certificates. They've been living at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre since their arrests.
"It's a temporary solution to a long-term problem. It doesn't solve the problem of people being detained without charge," Harkat's wife Sophie said yesterday.
SHOCKED AND CONFUSED
Shocked and a little confused by the news, Sophie said she'd only heard rumours about the plan and couldn't weigh in for or against it until she knows what the conditions at the new jail would be like.
"I'm not in agreement with a transfer if his conditions won't be better," she said. "He has to have family contact visits. Somewhat of a normal lifestyle similar to what people have in penitentiaries ... These guys need their own space. They need to have their own TVs ... That's what I would expect. I would not want anything less than that. He could wear his own clothes. He could cook his own food. He would have to have more freedom than he has right now."
Corrections Canada spokeswoman Michele Pilon-Santilli said the confinement conditions at the facility are being determined by the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for security certificate detainees.
Noting the detainees would have "no contact whatsoever with the offender population" next door, she said the small facility would have its own dining and recreation areas as well as individual cells.
She couldn't say what sort of amenities the inmates would have. Officials at CBSA could not be reached.
News of the transfers came to light in October in court documents pertaining to Jaballah's case.
Reports at the time suggested detainees would have access to prison programs, libraries, personal property and "touch visits" from relatives.
Harkat's lawyer Matt Webber said better jail facilities shouldn't replace bail and transferring them "beyond the reach of their family" would be "just trading off one unacceptable sort of circumstance for another."Source: The Ottawa Sun