Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Judge supports passport renewal

AGENCIES , TORONTO AND OTTAWA

A Canadian judge has rejected the federal government's bid to deny a passport to Abdurahman Khadr, described as the "black sheep" of a family that has admitted close ties to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan ruled that Khadr, who has distanced himself from al-Qaeda, was entitled to have his passport renewal decided by the Canadian Passport Office, just as any other Canadian would.

"The principal reason for denying the passport -- in the interests of national security -- was based on concern about Canada-US relations and public disapproval for issuing a passport to a member of such an infamous family," Phelan wrote in his decision released on Thursday.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen, had been held as a prisoner at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was freed and has told Canadian media he had been asked to work for the CIA.

He told CBC television in 2004 that his family lived in the bin Laden compound in Afghanistan for several years, though he has said he has renounced al-Qaeda and bin Laden's tactics.

His brother Abdullah is wanted in the US on charges of buying weapons for al Qaeda and conspiring to kill Americans. Another brother, Omar, is in US custody in Guantanamo Bay accused of involvement in the death of a US soldier in Afghanistan.

Their father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was killed in Afghanistan in 2003 and was allegedly an al-Qaeda financier and close friend of Osama bin Laden.

The judge wrote that Abdurahman Khadr "is neither convicted nor charged with any offense nor said to be a threat to Canada, [and] applied for his passport renewal for which he qualified in all respects under the existing provisions."

The ruling came amid heightened concern over security with the arrest last week of 17 men in Ontario who are accused by police of being part of an "al-Qaeda-inspired" group that planned attacks on targets in Canada.

The arrests have prompted at least one conservative US lawmaker to accuse Canada of being a haven for terror organizations and call for tougher security on the border between the countries.

Meanwhile, Canada's Federal Court on Friday dismissed Ottawa's appeal to overturn a previous decision to free from prison Algerian national Mohamed Harkat, whom it suspects of belonging to al-Qaeda.

On May 23, another federal court had granted Harkat a conditional release as he awaited a ruling on an extradition request from Algeria.

However, he was required to wear an electronic bracelet, pay a US$31,500 bond and stay within the confines of his home in Ottawa if released.

Canada's public safety minister appealed the court's decision, saying Ottawa had "reasonable grounds to believe that Karkat poses a risk to national security" and should not be released.

But Justice Robert Decary refused to overturn the order, saying there was no evidence to show Harkat "represents a threat or a danger."

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