Sources say Ernst Zundel has hired a Toronto lawyer known for strong words and a mercurial courtroom demeanour - and for representing refugee claimants whom Ottawa declares deportable threats to national security.
Rocco Galati's clients include several accused of being Islamic extremists, including an Egyptian who once befriended Osama bin Laden. Now Mr. Galati will represent Mr. Zundel, a German-born Holocaust denier, as Canada figures out what to do with him.
Mr. Galati could not be reached for comment yesterday. Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Mark Weber, a friend of Mr. Zundel's in the United States, said separately yesterday that Mr. Galati had been retained.
Mr. Zundel remains in a Canadian jail after being removed from the United States by U.S. immigration agents, who arrested him in the Tennessee home where he had been living for nearly three years. It's unclear what will happen to him this weekend.
Mr. Zundel lived for most of his life in Canada but was never granted citizenship. He is understood to have claimed refugee status after being removed from the United States, for fear he will be jailed under strict anti-hate laws if he is returned to his native Germany.
Debate about Mr. Zundel could centre on whether he is a threat to national security - as Canadian intelligence agents once deemed him when he was denied citizenship in 1996.
Should Ottawa try to deport Mr. Zundel on the basis of being a security threat, he'll have a lawyer with experience in defending against that charge.
Mr. Galati has been frustrated many times by the secret intelligence information that the Solicitor-General and Immigration Minister have used to issue such security certificates against 23 people in the past 13 years.
"I cannot in good conscience . . . proceed with what I consider a sham proceeding," Mr. Galati told a judge when he walked out of a trial last year. "My oath would not forgive me. My conscience would not forgive me. And history would not forgive me."
At the time, Mr. Galati was representing Egyptian Mahmoud Jaballah, who was accused of being a member of al-Jihad, a radical group that merged with al-Qaeda a few years ago. Mr. Galati also represents another Egyptian named Mohammed Zeki Mahjoub, who admits he met Osama bin Laden several times but denies being a terrorist.
Both of these clients - who, like Mr. Zundel, entered Canada as refugee claimants - have been deemed security threats. However, Mr. Galati has been able to keep them from being deported so far.
Immigration Minister Denis Coderre has signalled that he will take quick action on the Zundel matter: "Just watch me," he said Thursday.
Mr. Galati is critical of cabinet ministers who would meddle in due process. "The ministers in this case don't give a rat's ass about the court," he once said.
Mr. Galati has always passionately argued for fairness and due process. He is not affiliated with the movements of any of his clients.
Some observers see an ideological link between Islamic fundamentalists and people such as Mr. Zundel. "There has been an unholy alliance between Islamists and Holocaust deniers," said Manuel Prutschi of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "In some ways, Mr. Zundel is a pioneer of that movement."
Mr. Prutschi said some of the tracts Mr. Zundel published and sent to the Middle East 20 years ago resemble a false rumour that recently circulated through the region: that Jews perpetrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"The basic premise from early on was the Jews were exemplary world conspirators and pulled off the mother of all conspiracies," Mr. Prutschi said.
Lately, Canada has been more concerned with terrorist organizations than with hate groups. Still, white-supremacist groups continue to have a presence here.
"Ernst certainly has his friends here in Canada who will help him out and give him what he needs," said Elizabeth Moore, who was once involved in Mr. Zundel's movement but now speaks out against racism.
"As far as the movement as a whole, it's not as organized as it was in the mid-nineties," she said. "Everybody is kind of scattered."
Ms. Moore says she is ashamed of her past, which includes times when she used to stuff propaganda envelopes in the house Mr. Zundel used to own in Toronto.
"Ernst Zundel's placemats said 'Germany: Stop Apologizing For What You Didn't Do.' How warped does that make you to see that at breakfast every day?" Ms. Moore said yesterday.