A Toronto man says Canada owes him a home after he was arrested for being a member of what turned out to be a non-existent al-Qaida sleeper cell.
Mohammad Imran Akhtar Malik, 33, claims through his lawyer and in court documents that he cannot return to Pakistan due to news reports that wrongly called him and 20 other students terrorists.
Immigration officials claimed the accused, mostly Pakistani, were agents in a sleeper cell and posed as students at an Ottawa business college.
The year-long probe by Canada immigration officers cost about $1 million and was dubbed Project Thread, according to evidence at detention hearings.
The investigation was patterned after a manhunt that followed the U.S. Sept. 11 attacks, in which officers focused on "clusters" of students, some of whom took flying lessons or visited nuclear plants.
At the immigration hearings, evidence was presented that an attack on Toronto may have been foiled by the arrests. No details of the threat was presented.
Malik's lawyer Amina Sherazee said charges against her client and the others of being a threat to national security were dropped. Malik was freed from jail within weeks.
Sherazee said nearly all the men were held for a lesser offence of misrepresenting themselves to enter Canada.
About 13 were promptly deported to Pakistan and India.
Malik and five others, who are fighting to remain in Canada, claim their lives are in danger if they return home because of the false links to al-Qaida.
"My client is afraid of going back home," Sherazee said.