Hani Al Telbani, first man on Canada’s no-fly list, denied legal funding

04 Jan

The first man known to be on Canada’s no-fly list has been denied government funding to fight his legal challenge.

Hani Al Telbani, a Concordia University engineering student, was at Montreal’s Trudeau airport about to board an Air Canada flight to Saudi Arabia in 2008 when he was stopped. He was shown a copy of an emergency direction from the Minister of Transport declaring he “posed an immediate threat to aviation security.”

Mr. Al Telbani’s case sparked debate over racial profiling, civil liberties, public safety and national security and brought legal challenges that continue to be argued in court. He denied being a danger and claimed in court filings that the government unjustly associated him with terrorism.

But, in a recent decision, the Federal Court of Appeal has rejected his plea to have the government pay his legal costs in advance.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Mr. Al Telbani is undertaking an “important constitutional” fight, and she was surprised the court rejected the request.

“This is the first case into the legality of the no-fly list and its future use as a security assessment,” Ms. Des Rosiers said.

“It is a significant impediment if you can’t fly. It brings economic loss, a loss of dignity, it hurts your enjoyment of life,” said Ms. Des Rosiers. “The issue is about secrecy, about the accuracy of the information and the due process to be able to correct the information if it is inaccurate. It is not an unsympathetic case. There is a question of access to justice if their rights are impugned.”

The proper name of the no-fly list is the Specified Persons List. Created by the Department of Transport in 2007, it is a secret list of people the government believes poses a threat to air security. Airlines cannot allow anyone on the list to board a plane leaving or heading to Canada. The United States has a similar, but likely larger, list.

Mr. Al Telbani, 29, is a Muslim of Palestinian background who has been a permanent resident of Canada since 2004. He was living in Longueuil, Que., when he tried to board a flight en route to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where he appears to have family.

He filed court challenges questioning the decision to place him on the no-fly list and the constitutional validity of it.

A security advisory board found flaws with Mr. Al Telbani’s inclusion on the list but when Transport Canada re-evaluated it the decision was to maintain his designation.

During proceedings, the government filed some information in court, including that a Transport Canada intelligence officer issued the emergency direction to stop Mr. Al Telbani on June 4, 2008, the day of his flight.

But other information was deemed too “sensitive” by the government, which sought to censor it, creating a third proceeding, this one a designated security case which gets special handling. Mr. Al Telbani’s lawyer then objected to the public release of some of the information filed in court.

A legal challenge by Maclean’s magazine revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency, tracked Mr. Al Telbani as the administrator of a defunct, password-protected Internet forum frequented by militant Islamists and used by al Qaeda to spread messages from Osama bin Laden.

Last year, Mr. Al Telbani asked court to order the government to pay his legal fees in his confidentiality case before the case was even decided. Usually, legal fees are paid to the successful party at the end of court proceedings.

His request was denied. He appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal and in the summer a panel of three judges upheld the decision in a ruling recently translated and released in English.

The court ruled that his case did not transcend his own interests and was not of compelling public importance.

Further, the court was unable to conclude he couldn’t pay his own way, either by himself or with family: Mr. Al Telbani just told court he couldn’t impose a financial burden on his parents beyond them supporting his studies in Canada.

The appeal court found no reason to dispute those findings.

Mr. Al Telbani’s lawyer was traveling and could not be reached this week.

Hani Al Telbani, first man on Canada’s no-fly list, denied legal funding | Canada | News | National Post.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Canada


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: