Sunday, March 26, 2006

Canada jails Muslims for security reasons
By Reuel S. Amdur -- The Arab American News:

Currently, four Muslim immigrants are being held in Canadian jails pending deportation, and a fifth is subject to strict bail conditions. The five were arrested under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Act, providing for issuance of security certificates.
Under provisions of the Act, non-citizens may be held in detention without bail or charge on the basis of secret evidence available neither to the accused nor his lawyer. All five of the men are alleged to have terrorist connections and all claim innocence. They all express fear of torture or worse if returned to their home countries.
One judge, James Hugessen, stated the distaste that he and other judges have for the law: "I can tell you because we talked about it. We hate it. We do not like this process of having only one party and looking at the materials produced by only one party and having to try to figure out for ourselves what is wrong with the case. . . and having to try for ourselves to see how the witnesses . . . . ought to be cross-examined."
Hassan Almrei, a Syrian, has been in custody since 2001, accused of being an al Qaeda agent involved in forgery. Pictures of Osama bin Laden were found on his computer, but he says that he downloaded the pictures with articles from Al Jazeera and the BBC. He went on a hunger strike to get improved conditions in jail, and the prison guards supported his complaints. Almrei fought with the muhajadeen against the Russians in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Mahjoub, held since 2000, is accused of membership in Vanguards of Conquest, affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He admits working for bin Laden on a farm in Sudan. Another Egyptian, Mahmoud Jaballah, principal of a Toronto Islamic school, is accused of being a senior operative of the Al-Jihad organization as well. He claims to have been imprisoned and tortured in Egypt but never convicted of anything.
Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian refugee, in jail since 2002, stands accused of memership in the Groupe Islamique Armé, described as a violent organization bent on setting up an Islamic state. It is also alleged that he was in Afghanistan, took part in the resistance in 1991, and was involved with al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubayda. He denied these allegations, saying that he was never in Afghanistan, being in Pakistan at the time. Federal Court Judge Eleanor Dawson, who examined the secret evidence, did not believe his denials.
The only one of the five out on bail is Adil Charkaoui. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) accused him of being an acquaintance of al Qaeda members and of connections to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, blamed for attacks in Spain and Morocco. His bail conditions include a curfew and an electronic monitoring bracelet. He is also restricted as to his contacts and as to computer usage.
Amnesty International charges that "individuals detained purusant to a security certificate are effectively denied their right to prepare a defense and mount a meaningful challenge to the lawfulness of their detention." AI further calls attendtion to the fact that "international law provides absolute protection against being returned to torture."
Some critics have argued that, if secret evidence is necessary, then the court should be aided by an advocate for the person detained to examine the evidence and question witnesses, a kind of second lawyer for the accused who does not share the information with the actual lawyer or the client. There is no provision in the law to provide such protection.
In other Canada news, The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) this week called on law enforcement authorities to treat an attack on Muslim students at the University of Toronto (UT) as a hate crime and to bring the strongest possible criminal charges. CAIR-CAN is also calling on the university to take concrete steps to address racial hate and Islamophobia on campus.
Several witnesses told CAIR-CAN that a man attempted to run down four Muslim students with his car on the university campus on Sunday after yelling racial slurs at them. One of the students was reportedly hit by the car and taken to a nearby hospital by paramedics. The alleged attacker sped away.
"The University of Toronto has been known for its tolerance and accommodation of religious needs. Now the university must take a strong stand to show that all forms of hate and racism, including Islamophobia, will not be tolerated on its campus," said Riad Saloojee, CAIR-CAN's executive director. He added that the university must take action to ensure the safety of its Muslim students.
In a prior complaint, a female Muslim student at the university told CAIR-CAN she was pushed and called a terrorist on March 7. Earlier complaints received by CAIR-CAN concerned at least two different flyers promoting Islamophobia that were distributed at both York University and the University of Toronto.
The victim of the March 7 incident told CAIR-CAN that she believed a "Know Radical Islam" weeklong event organized by a student group at the university in February may have also contributed to the recent rise of Islamophobia on campus.
Last week, CAIR-CAN sent a letter to David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, asking that the university take a strong stand against hate. CAIR-CAN reiterated that request this weekend.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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