updated 1/2/2009 8:10:18 PM ET 2009-01-03T01:10:18

A Canadian federal court judge Friday ordered the conditional release of a Syrian terrorism suspect who has spent more than seven years in custody without being formally charged.

Justice Richard Mosley said in a written statement that the continued detention Hassan Almrei — accused of being a threat to national security — can no longer be justified.

Almrei, 34, was arrested in October 2001 and accused of having connections to former Toronto resident Nabil al-Marabh. U.S. officials had said al-Marabh had links to the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. However, he was convicted in 2002 of an immigration violation and deported to Syria.

Almrei, a Muslim, was the last remaining terrorism suspect being held under Canada's national security certificate law, which allows the government to detain and deport immigrants without charges if they are deemed a threat to national security. The law was enacted shortly after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Almrei's counsel had argued that indefinite detention without charge or trial amounted to cruelty.

"It is difficult to find any cases in the common-law world where a person detained on security grounds has been held for so long," Mosley said.

The judge said that Almrei should be released but closely monitored by authorities until it can be determined whether the security certificate is reasonable and whether he can be deported to Syria or another country.

Four other immigrants living in Canada, who were being held under the security certificates for several years, have been granted bail under stringent conditions while their lawyers fight the government's allegations that they have terrorist ties.

The men, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui, deny terrorist links and have fought deportation, saying they will be tortured if returned to their home countries, which include Egypt and Algeria.

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