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Convicted terrorist recants testimony against Montreal man

A lawyer for Adil Charkaoui, alleged to be an Al-Qa'ida agent, says key evidence against the Montreal man should be struck from the record because his accuser has apparently recanted.

The drama took another turn yesterday with the revelation that fellow Montrealer and convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam says he made up incriminating statements about Charkaoui.

Johanne Doyon, one of Charkaoui's lawyers, said she will bring the matter before the courts.

Charkaoui, a landed immigrant from Morocco, was arrested in Montreal in May 2003, accused of being an Al-Qa'ida sleeper agent prepared to wage terror attacks against Western targets. Ressam, an Algerian-born Montrealer, was caught trying to slip across the British Columbia-Washington border in 1999 with a trunk full of explosives to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

Following his conviction in the United States in 2001, Ressam co-operated extensively with authorities in the hope of leniency. He received 22 years behind bars, but this year a judge ordered a review of the sentence.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service claims Ressam identified Charkaoui as someone he met at an Al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan - an allegation Charkaoui denies.

Le Journal de Montreal reported yesterday Ressam recanted the accusation against Charkaoui in a letter responding to an inquiry from the newspaper. In the letter, written in Arabic, Ressam said he was under great psychological pressure after his conviction, and that his statements can't be taken seriously.

Supporters of Charkaoui said there is more reason than ever to question information provided by Canada's intelligence service.

The role CSIS seems to have played "in introducing partial, questionable" assertions against Charkaoui is troubling, said Mary Foster, member of a coalition working on his behalf. Melisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, said the case against Charkaoui "comes from many sources," not just Ressam's assertion.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007


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