On his first day in seven years as a free man, Mohamed Harkat could have done anything.
Instead, he made good on a longtime promise to take his 10-year-old niece, Gabrielle, out for some one-on-one time.
The destination was the Place d’Orleans shopping centre, where the two enjoyed ice cream.
“What a difference one day can make,” the Algerian-born terrorism suspect told a press conference one day after a Federal Court judge lifted the strict bail conditions he had been living under for the past three-and-a-half years. “What a feeling it was.”
To cap off his evening, Harkat took out the garbage– another unexpected thrill, since his wife, Sophie, had been doing the job for two years because the curb was outside the boundary he was allowed to cross.
But Harkat, who happily thanked his family and supporters yesterday, said “complete freedom far from here.
“Life has been extremely difficult over the past seven years,” he said.
After three-and-a-half years in prison, Harkat was not allowed to leave his house unaccompanied. His home was under 24-hour surveillance, his phone tapped and his mail opened.
After the decision to loosen the conditions Monday, surveillance was lifted. Harkat can now go out alone, but must continue to wear a GPS device and has limited access to computers and cell phones. He also has to report to the CBSA once a week.
He will continue to fight for what’s right, he said.
“We are also looking ahead,” said Colin Stewart with the Justice for Mohamad Harkat committee. “Mo’s name still has to be cleared.”
Supporters like Stewart are hoping to abolish secret trials, security certificates and the deportation of suspects.
Harkat’s is not the only case in Canada, said human rights activist and wife of Maher Arar, Monia Mazigh.
“We have to ask why they used a security certificate and why did they destroy the lives of these people,” she said.
“A lot has changed in my life,” said Harkat, who insists he has no desire for time alone. “What (my wife and I) went through will always keep us close,” he said.