Friday, April 13, 2007

Family demands answers in 2005 slaying

Officer shot man while investigating someone else
PAUL CHERRY, Thursday, April 12, 2007

The family of a man killed by a Montreal police officer
16 months ago is calling on the public security minister
to lift the veil of secrecy that still surrounds his death.

Mohammed-Anas Bennis, 25, was fatally shot by a Montreal
police officer on Dec. 1, 2005, in Cote des Neiges. The
officer was on Kent Ave., assisting Surete du Quebec
investigators while they carried out a search warrant in a
fraud investigation.

Bennis, who had no ties to the fraud investigation,
had just left a nearby mosque when he was shot.

ormation made public so far is contained in a coroner's
report released last year on Bennis's death. It cites a
Montreal police report on the incident that states Bennis
stabbed the officer in the neck and right leg "for no
known motive."

Quebec City police investigated the shooting. They
submitted a report to crown prosecutor James Rondeau,
who informed the victim's father, Mohammed Bennis, no charges
would be laid.

But Rondeau and the provincial government have refused to
let Bennis read the police report. Yesterday, during a
small protest in front of the Montreal courthouse, Bennis
called on the provincial government to shed light on why
his son was killed.

"It has been very frustrating," Bennis said of the
bureaucratic runaround he has been put through.

Johanne Pelletier, a spokesperson for Public Security
Minister Jacques Dupuis, confirmed a request for access
to the report was denied.

"Access to the police report was refused because we
applied the law" that covers research on the cause and
circumstances of a death, she said.

"A police report contains lots of personal information on
people who are not directly involved in an event," Pelletier
said, adding the government's decision was based on
protecting such personal information.

She also said the same legislation does not allow the
government to release edited documents.

That interpretation of the law makes it impossible for the public
to know the circumstances behind any police shooting in Quebec,
Bennis said. A letter he and two of his daughters delivered to
Dupuis's office yesterday criticizes the government's explanation
as "patently unreasonable."

Other people involved in the protest, like activist Jaggi Singh
and Dan Philip, of the Black Coalition of Quebec, called for an
independent inquiry into Bennis's death.

Also in attendance at the protest was Projet Montreal leader
and city councillor Richard Bergeron. He criticized city councillor
Claude Dauphin, the executive committee member responsible f
or public safety, for passing the buck.

"I've asked him questions twice (at council meetings) and he
said that the answer has to come from the public security
minister," Bergeron said.

"I'm not happy because that's too easy. The police officer
who killed Mr. Bennis is (a member of) the Montreal police.
We can't be satisfied with such an answer."