Activists descend on CBSA offices to protest Canada's security certificates
Mon, 2007-01-15 18:36
By: JANE TAGUICANA
TORONTO (CP) - Nearly 20 human-rights activists gathered Monday outside the offices of the Canada Border Services Agency to protest the ongoing detention of three men who have been held behind bars for more than four years as perceived threats to national security.
Protesters, some of them clad in orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by prisoners, braved cold temperatures and freezing rain to show their support for Mohammad Mahjoub, 45, Mahmoud Jaballah, 44, and Hassan Almrei, 33.
"These men have been very clear: 'If you have a case against us, charge us in open court,"' said protest organizer Matthew Behrens.
"'Show the evidence to us and we're more than happy to meet the case."'
Joining the group was Mahjoub's wife, Mona Elfouli, who tried to speak to an immigration officer at the west-end Toronto facility, only to be turned away by security officers who repeatedly demanded that the protesters leave the building.
Elfouli said her husband, who hasn't eaten in 55 days, suffers from hepatitis C and high blood pressure, but has been denied medical treatment. Jaballah, meanwhile, has also been denied treatment for a double hernia, protesters said.
The facility in Kingston, Ont., where the men are being held - dubbed Guantanamo Bay North by critics who liken it to the controversial U.S. detention camp for terror suspects in Cuba - has also refused to provide an escort for her husband for medical treatments.
"Criminals have more rights than (these men)," Elfouli said.
"They treat my husband and the others not like human beings. They put them in Guantanamo North and throw the key away and expect everybody to forget about these people. What did they do to deserve that?"
The men are being held under security certificates - a controversial tool that allows federal authorities, with Ottawa's permission, to detain suspects deemed to pose a threat to national security without having to lay charges or disclose evidence.
"Not a single piece of evidence has been presented in court to implicate Mr. Mahjoub in any act of violence or in any kind of threat," said Behrens, head of a group called the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada.
Ottawa doesn't care about the lives of the three men, he added.
"They're willing to let them starve to death and they're also willing to send them overseas for torture."
The Supreme Court of Canada has been asked to rule on the constitutional validity of Canada's security certificate system.
A four-hour vigil in support of the detainees was also held Monday in Kingston to mark Martin Luther King Day, as were protests in a number of other cities including St. John's, Nfld., Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal, London, Ont., Kitchener, Ont., Winnipeg and Vancouver.