Editorial: Just do it!

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It sounded like a joke: a terrorism suspect says he’d rather go back to prison than remain on house arrest. A number of knee-slappers sprang to mind when the story broke, including something along the lines of what clever Law Times editorial cartoonist Pascal Elie came up with above. Given the facts of this particular case, “old ball and chain” quips and double entendres are too easy. But sadly, this is not even remotely funny.

To wit: Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub stepped back into custody because his wife and stepson are no longer prepared to act as his 24-hour-a-day bail supervisors - they just can’t take it anymore.

According to news reports they told court they are under constant surveillance and simply cannot stand the stress of the stringent bail conditions, much less allow it to keep taking a toll on the lives of Mahjoub’s two young boys aged 11 and 9.

Well to be blunt, are we the Canadian taxpayers prepared, especially in these cash-strapped times, to continue to fork out the estimated $1 million a year it costs to keep Mahjoub under the strict scrutiny of federal agents? This has been going on nigh on two years while Mahjoub awaits a review of his case; he’s one of five Muslim foreigners the feds want to deport as threats to national security.

But let’s not forget this sorry saga began way back in 2000 when Mahjoub was jailed without a charge on a security certificate and held for seven years until he secured a frankly hard-won bail in 2007 under the onerous conditions.

That was the same year the Supreme Court of Canada found the certificate process is unconstitutional, and still this thing drags on. That’s nine years . . . and counting. Hello?
Doesn’t jailing cost money too?

“I have to go back to jail to protect my family,” Mahjoub told Justice Simon Noel who reluctantly acceded to his wish. Some may interpret this, “I’d rather take jail than house arrest” move as a protest of sorts by Mahjoub over his onerous bail conditions.

Well duh. But it’s also probably the only thing the man could do to protect his children from life in a relentless fishbowl that has gone to bizarre extremes including having Canadian Border Service Agency agents enter a hospital room as Mahjoub’s wife miscarried.

The family is surveilled, photographed, mail is intercepted, the phones are bugged, there’s no Internet, they are followed to things like family outings at a skating rink, Mahjoub wears an electronic bracelet.

On first blush it may not sound like much to the rest of us who are not accused of being a member of the Vanguard of Conquest, a group tied to al-Qaeda. (Although Mahjoub admits he worked on a farm owned by Osama bin Laden, he denies terrorist involvement and is fighting deportation to Egypt saying he’d be tortured.)

But think about what his wife Mona El-Fouli told reporters after her husband stepped back into custody for the sake of those he holds dear: “The security certificate is destroying my family.”

Before agreeing to send Mahjoub back to jail, Noel asked, “Do I have a choice?” When told he didn’t, the judge observed, “I find that today we’re going back into the darkness. We’re not going ahead.” Boy, did he hit the nail on the head.

“Give him an open and fair trial,” says Mahjoub’s wife.
No matter what the final outcome, it’s time to get this thing done.
- Gretchen Drummie

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