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In a case that government lawyers said will determine if Canada becomes a haven for terrorists, a suspected Tamil terrorist is appealing to Canada's Supreme Court to overturn his deportation to his native Sri Lanka.

Manickvasagam Suresh, described by Canadian immigration and law enforcement officials as a member of a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka, argues that Canada should not deport him because he could face torture on his return home.

While there is no evidence that Suresh committed any acts of violence in Canada or Sri Lanka, the Canadian government contends in briefs filed with the high court that he is a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a paramilitary group fighting against the Sri Lankan government.

"This case will determine whether Canada will become a haven for terrorists," wrote government lawyers Urszula Kaczmarczyk and Cheryl Mitchell.

Suresh is considered a "trained assassin and terrorist," they said.

The government says Suresh lied about his past when entering Canada in 1991 and has helped raised money for the Tigers, an organization responsible for more than 140 incidents of violence that resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people.

The government also claims that Suresh faces "minimal risk" of torture if he is returned to Sri Lanka, because that country's government has outlawed torture.

Still, the issue of deporting a suspected criminal to a country where he could face execution or abuse remains a troubling issue for Canadians.

The Supreme Court ruled last week against deporting two murder suspects to Washington State unless U.S. authorities agree to not to execute them, saying the death penalty is virtually unconstitutional under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Members of Canada's opposition political parties have condemned the ruling, which blocked the extradition of accused murders Atif Rafay and Sabastian Burns to Washington unless that state agrees not to condemn them to death if they are convicted.

Peter MacKay of the Progressive Conservative Party said the ruling means that those who commit capital crimes in another country and flee to Canada will no longer have to "face the consequences" in the country where they committed their crime.

Barbara Jackman, Suresh's lawyer, said she hopes "the court applies the same human rights reasoning" to immigration cases where a deportee faces torture in his native land.

In an editorial, the Toronto Star wrote that the high court's decision against deporting the two men to Washington amends a "troubling" judgment the court issued in 1991 when it allowed the justice minister to send Charles Ng back to California to face murder and torture charges without getting assurances he would not be executed. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999.

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