Friday, February 2, 2007

Day takes a peek at jailed terror suspects

Globe and Mail, Saturday January 27, 2007

Day takes a peek at jailed terror suspects

The Kingston detention centre where three hunger-striking men are being
held on security certificates received a visit from Stockwell Day this
week, but the ailing men didn't get a chance to talk to the federal

According to supporters of the three men, all of whom are being held
because of national-security concerns, the Public Safety Minister peered
briefly into each cell before walking on.

"He wouldn't speak with the men, which is very unfortunate because he's
getting only one side," said Matthew Behrens, an activist who speaks to
the men daily. "They saw him and came to their doors to speak but he
didn't say anything. He just moved on."

Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Mr. Day, said that he normally meets
with prisoners, administrative staff and guards during these sorts of
visits, which she called routine. But in this case, she added, it would
have been improper to talk to the men while their case is before the
Supreme Court.

Mr. Behrens rejected the argument, saying that the men wanted to speak to
Mr. Day about the conditions of their detention and not about their court
case. Mr. Behrens said that the men are clearly in very bad shape after
having refused solid food for about two months to protest against
conditions at the facility. They are beginning to fear they will be
allowed to die.

"I spoke to one of the men yesterday who told me he had blood in his
urine," Mr. Behrens said last night. "The men are basically skin and
bones. They can't find any comfortable position to lie down."

The men are among five refugee claimants declared possible security
threats by the Canadian government. Two of the five have been released
under strict conditions. All are fighting deportation, amid claims that
their human rights will be violated if sent back to their homelands.

Those still in custody at Kingston Immigration Holding Centre have refused
solid food in a bid to improve their medical care and get better treatment
from guards. Mohammad Mahjoub has been on the hunger strike for 64 days
and Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei for 53 days. The men are taking
nothing but juice, water and occasionally clear broth, Mr. Behrens said.

Earlier this week, scores of concerned medical professionals signed a
letter to Mr. Day saying they were "extremely worried" about the men's

Mr. Behrens said that the mounting pressure of the doctors' letter,
demonstrations in Ottawa and in Mr. Day's riding, and a phone and
letter-writing campaign were probably behind Thursday's visit, which
caught the prisoners' supporters by surprise.

But Ms. Leclerc said the tour of the facility was a routine part of Mr.
Day's job. He would not be able to discuss the condition of the men, she
added, because of privacy rules.