OTTAWA - Lapsed anti-terror provisions — extraordinary measures the Conservative government has been trying to revive — might have been useful in the current effort to round up suspects in an alleged bomb plot, the prime minister hinted Wednesday.
Federal tactics in the case have come under scrutiny after an Ottawa call-centre worker was arrested, charged with domestic assault, released and recharged, prompting his lawyer to complain it's all a ruse to buy security investigators more time.
Almost a week later, he has not been charged with a terrorist offence.
Provisions that allowed authorities to arrest and hold suspects to prevent a terrorist attack, or compel them to appear before a judge in an investigative hearing, were once part of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The sections were intended to help stop a terrorist plot or help investigators learn more about one.
But those elements lapsed in 2007 and have never been successfully restored.
A bill that would do so died when the Harper government pulled the plug on Parliament last December. It was reintroduced in the House of Commons in April.
Asked whether the government planned to bring back exceptional powers to arrest terror suspects, Harper pointed to the bill, which is still at first-reading stage.
"There is some legislation in this regard that we would like to see passed, but obviously as we watch these particular incidents we'll carefully examine our laws to make sure they're adequate to deal with the circumstances that do arise from time to time," Harper said in Mirabel, Que.
The Ottawa man facing the assault charge is to reappear in court Friday. Audio surveillance of his home is expected to be introduced as evidence and it may provide a link between him and three other men.
Lawyers for the three, arrested last week in police sweeps, have begun wading through hundreds of pages of evidence against their clients.
The men all made brief court appearances by video link on Wednesday.
Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, 30, and Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, both of Ottawa and Khurram Syed Sher, 28, of London, Ont., are charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Sher has been ordered to reappear Friday by video link, while Ahmed is to show in person on Sept. 15 and Alizadeh is to appear by video on the 16th.
The Crown is giving each defence team a binder full of general information about the case and will also be handing over a binder specifically about each man's alleged role in the plot.
"The disclosure process will be fairly lengthy," said Crown prosecutor David McKercher outside court.
None of the three men spoke on their video appearances Wednesday, save for stating their names and thanking the judge when their matters were concluded.
Alizadeh, whose slight and gaunt face is ringed by dark curly hair, faces the most charges.
Outside court on Wednesday, his lawyer said he was taking the case seriously.
"He's responding to our meetings in a quiet, thoughtful way," said Sean May.
"It's a very overwhelming set of circumstances and experiences to have in the past week."
While May said he had't looked at the Crown's evidence yet, he's eager to see precisely what information police have on his client.
"We want every scrap of information there is," he said.
"We want to know everything about the case, everything about what investigative steps were taken by all agencies."
The men were arrested after a year-long investigation by the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other agencies.
Investigators found more than 50 electronic circuit boards they say were designed to remotely detonate bombs and booby traps.
Police also seized videos, terrorist literature and bomb-related documents.
Police claim the terrorism plot stretched from Ottawa to Afghanistan, Dubai, Iran and Pakistan, but there has been no official word on the alleged targets.