Nick Kyonka, Toronto Star
October 10, 2008
RCMP adviser testifies in cross-examination he found ‘problematic assumptions’
OTTAWA—In previous court cases, security expert Tom Quiggin told a judge yesterday, he has testified against allowing bail for a suspected terrorist held in custody.
But after reading the government’s accusations against security certificate detainee Hassan Almrei, Quiggin instead felt he had to advocate for his release, a federal court heard yesterday.
“What Mr. Almrei is essentially being accused of and what he actually is … I see a whole series of disconnects between the two,” Quiggin told Justice Richard Mosley under cross-examination yesterday.
While not accusing him of Al Qaeda membership, the government alleges Almrei’s time as an Afghan fighter against Soviet occupation forces in the early ’90s has given him iconic status among jihadists.
They also say he has ties to terror organizations and is capable of securing fake travel documents.
In testimony Wednesday, Quiggin rebuffed these accusations, calling Almrei a “small fish” with no profile or enduring ties to militants.
Under cross-examination, Quiggin — an RCMP adviser who testified as a Crown witness in a previous terrorist case — said he was drawn to Almrei’s case after noticing a surprising number of errors and “problematic assumptions” in government submissions.
“Usually, I’d take a quick look at these files, give my opinion and pass them on,” he said. But this time, he said he found more than 20 claims that didn’t add up.
One, he said, was that the existence of intelligence reports linking Almrei to a terrorist organization proved he was a public threat.
In his own intelligence work for the Canadian Forces and RCMP, Quiggin told court yesterday, he had seen similar “links” created for people simply because they shopped at the same store as a suspected terrorist.
He also shot down a claim that Almrei has likely developed extremist views while behind bars.
Crown lawyer Toby Hoffmann queried the reliability of Almrei’s statements to Quiggin in an interview. “Can you be sure the information he’s given you has been completely truthful,” he asked.
“I can never be completely certain someone is telling the truth,” Quiggin replied, but repeated that Almrei showed no signs of having a radical jihadist outlook.
Later in the proceedings, Mosley seemed to side with Quiggin in saying “a great deal of information put forward from the government side and from the ministers as analysis is a matter of opinion.”
A Syrian granted refugee status in 2000, Almrei was the first non-citizen arrested under a national security certificate following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Four detainees have since received conditional releases, but Almrei has stayed in custody because he has no relatives here to vouch for his good conduct.
Proceedings resume next Tuesday in Toronto when lawyers will have a chance to interview potential sureties for Almrei’s release.
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