Saturday, April 14, 2007

Court Releases Suspected Terrorist

The Federal Court of Canada yesterday released a senior terrorism suspect back to his home in Toronto, where he will be supervised by his son. Mahmoud Jaballah, has been in detention without charge for the past six years and Madame Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson took this into consideration when giving her order for bail surety. The Globe and Mail reports on the conditions:
Mr. Jaballah's house arrest will be strict, his communications will be closely monitored and federal agents will follow him whenever he leaves his home.

A source yesterday suggested immigration-control officials in Toronto are preparing to lobby for as many as 20 new enforcement positions, just to keep tabs on Mr. Jaballah and the newly released Mr. Mahjoub, an Osama bin Laden associate.

While it is not comforting to know that people can be detained without charge for years, terrorism brings new challenges to the criminal justice system. Arguably, they should not even fall into the criminal category, especially if these terrorists consider themselves soldiers in a war (so they would prisoners of a war they're waging on us). Nevertheless, taking on 20 new officers to keep tabs on two suspected terrorists is quite a notable number.

One can only presume that those 20 would be in addition a few other officers already assigned to them. After all, these two men have to be watched 24 hours a day by armed teams who also monitor all their communications and watch for leads they might generate. How much does that cost? It can only be thousands of dollars a day, in addition to the lost manpower on the streets of Toronto. Perhaps these 20 odd officers should be out hunting for other suspects instead of babysitting a known danger. Perhaps he should be back in jail.

Or perhaps not. Courts err under the traditional criminal law maxim that "it is better to have ten guilty men go free than one innocent man punished". In the criminal sense, that's still the best policy. But is it still fitting when dealing with terrorists? Where one man may go free to kill a hundred? This is one policy question Canadians need to deal with sooner rather than later.