Supreme Court of Canada Agrees to Hear Bail Appeal from Secret Trial Detainee Hassan Almrei;

Decision to Hear Historic Case Comes One Day After Syrian Refugee Marks Four Full Years in Solitary Confinement

OCTOBER 20, 2005 -- In a significant and hopeful sign for those concerned about the ability of the federal government to hold individuals indefinitely without charge or bail, the Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to secret trial detainee Hassan Almrei to challenge the denial of his bail application.

"We're pleased that we'll be able to address what are clearly issues of national importance before the Supreme Court," says one of Almrei's lawyers, John Norris. "Mr. Almrei's case is part of the fundamentally important project of defining what are, and what are not, acceptable responses under Canadian law to allegations of terrorism."

Almrei's appeal will be heard in tandem with a challenge to the security certificate regime launched by Adil Charkaoui of Montreal, a permanent resident held almost two years on secret evidence before his release on severe bail restrictions. It will be argued by Mr. Norris and Barbara Jackman

Almrei, held on a secret hearing security certificate since October 19, 2001 in a Toronto solitary confinement cell in Metro West Detention Centre, based his appeal on the belief that the Federal Court of Appeal erred in upholding the use of secret evidence neither he nor his lawyer could contest during the course of his bail application. He is also challenging a number of related issues, including:

• Whether the Federal Court of Appeal erred in holding that extended detention in solitary confinement is not cruel and unusual treatment contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, even if it was, that release from detention is not the appropriate and just remedy.

• Whether the Federal Court of Appeal erred in holding that the time Almrei has spent in detention and the conditions under which it has been spent are essentially irrelevant to the question of whether removal from Canada will occur within a reasonable time.

• Whether the Federal Court of Appeal erred in holding that the time taken by a detainee to access legal remedies relating to fundamental human rights is to be discounted in determining whether removal could occur within a reasonable time.

Two factors play a role in determining bail for someone held on a security certificate: whether or not, 120 days after a certificate has been upheld, removal from Canada will be executed within a reasonable time and, if not, whether the individual is deemed to pose a risk to the security of Canada or any person. Almrei's certificate was upheld in 2001, yet four years later he remains behind bars, fighting deportation to what human rights organizations acknowledge is a substantial likelihood of torture or death in Syria.

"The federal government says the fact that Mr. Almrei has attempted to access the court process to seek protection from deportation to torture should count against him, arguing that any time spent waiting for a judicial decision is the responsibility of Mr. Almrei, and not of a government which is defying its international and domestic legal obligations NEVER to deport anyone to torture," says one of his lawyers, John Norris.

"Almrei is constantly told he holds the key to his own release, and a simple decision to drop his court challenges means he could go free, but the only release the government proposes for him is a deportation to Syria, where what he would face is at least equal to, if not worse than, what happened to Maher Arar."

Almrei has drawn significant support for his bail application, including the likes of Alexandre Trudeau, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and Heather Mallick, in addition to a range of community supporters who have pledged tens of thousands of dollars in cash and surety bonds.

Security certificates, which have been used to detain 5 Muslim men a collective 223 months without charge and form the basis for their deportation to torture or death, have drawn a growing amount of criticism from individuals and groups across Canada, including MPs of all parties, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Committees Against Torture and Arbitrary Detention. They were the focus this week of major criticism before the U.N. Human Rights Committee.

Another key part of Almrei's court challenge is the fact that he does not know the allegations against him and, therefore, is unable to challenge any facts or beliefs which would lead to a declaration of risk.

"Not knowing the case against him on this essential pre-condition for release, whose burden it is his to meet, it's been impossible for Hassan to 'satisfy' the court that he would not be a threat if released," Norris notes. "It was secret evidence that carried the greatest weight on the question of dangerousness in his case, given that the Federal Court evidently found that the evidence called on behalf of Mr. Almrei had not answered the government's secret case against him. Hassan will never know why he continues to be detained."

For further information: contact the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada at (416) 651-5800.