Thursday, August 24, 2006

Five Years On: Bail Support Plea for Secret Trial Detainees

Five Years On: As Guantanamo Bay North is Down to Three Detainees, An Appeal for Bail Funds from the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada

Where were you five years ago, in August, 2001? And what's happened in your life since? Imagine that you have been sitting in a Canadian jail cell all this time, held without charge on secret "evidence" neither you nor your lawyer is allowed to see. You are fighting deportation to torture.

Your family struggles to get by in poverty.

Five years is a long time. Five years of this type of treatment is an unimaginable eternity.

It was in August, 2001 that we first heard the name Mahmoud Jaballah, a much-loved school principal who had been arrested on a secret trial security certificate in 1999, but cleared by the Federal Court of Canada after seven months of incarceration. But when he was coming out of school one August afternoon in 2001, he was seized by heavily armed RCMP agents who threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, and rushed him off in a black van with tinted windows.

Jaballah was arrested even though CSIS, Canada's spy agency, would later admit that it had no new "evidence" against Mr. Jaballah, only a "new interpretation" of the old "evidence" which had already been dismissed as not credible by the Federal Court.

It was Mr. Jaballah's arrest that spurred the formation of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada. We could not have imagined at that time that five years later, Mr. Jaballah would still be in jail, separated from his beloved wife and six children, nor that another man whose name we would shortly learn, Mohammad Mahjoub, who had been in jail without charge since June, 2000, would still be behind bars as well, separated from his wife and three children.

Eight weeks after Mr. Jaballah's arrest, Hassan Almrei would be picked up under the secret trial certificate as well and spend the next four years and three months in solitary confinement. He too remains behind bars. Subsequently, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui would also be arrested and detained, though both are now with their families under ridiculously draconian bail conditions. And Mourad Ikhlef would be arrested and quickly deported under secret evidence to Algeria. His fate is unknown.

Over the past five years, there has been a continuous campaign of nonviolent resistance to these arbitrary detentions. The issue is now on the national stage thanks in large part to a seemingly endless series of long-distance walks, sit-ins, vigils, sleep-outs at the jails, 24-hour vigils against torture, support actions for hunger strikes that have lasted as long as 79 days, educational fora, theatrical presentations that have compared the current situation with Kafka's The Trial, creative efforts to try and support the families of the detainees, vigilance inside the courts, and national days of action.

While groups as varied as the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and MPs of all parties have weighed in with their opposition to security certificates, perhaps most importantly, the detainees and their families have spoken out publicly, calling for justice.

And while our combined efforts have stopped CSIS in its tracks -- the spy agency has not been able to issue a security certificate in over 3 years after issuing between 2 and 3 per year from 1991-2003 -- we still have a long road ahead, with three men seeking bail and all five still fighting deportation to torture.

But perhaps most pressing is the need to get these men home to their families and to end the nightmare of indefinite detention. These men may well be fighting these never-ending battles five years hence, but at least, with your support, they may be doing it from the relative comfort of their homes and the loving proximity of their wives and children.

And so, an appeal from our hearts to yours. We need to raise money for bail for Mr. Mahjoub, Mr. Jaballah, and Mr. Almrei.

Many of you have taken part in vigils, have fasted in support, have written letters, have donated before to help the families and meet our campaign costs. The men, their families, and members of this campaign deeply appreciate your commitment, passion, and generosity over the past five years.

We need to return these men to their loved ones. Any amount you can afford, from $50 to $5,000 or more, would be appreciated beyond words. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area or southern or central Ontario, and own property or long-term investments (GICs, mutual funds) with significant equity, you can also provide a surety. A surety means that instead of putting forward cash, you would promise to pay an amount pledged only if terms of the bail were breached. For example, if you own a house with equity of $250,000, you could offer a surety of $10,000 or $20,000 or more.

If you can help us, please send a cheque to Homes not Bombs (marked "bail" in the memo portion of the cheque) and mail it to P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0. If you can provide a surety based on property or investment, call 416-651-5800 or email

Arbitrary, indefinite detention without charge, solitary confinement, hundreds of humiliating strip searches, physical separation from your loved ones, and the psychological punishment of never knowing when this nightmare will end -- all of these constitute a national shame.

Imagine this for five, six, seven years of your life. And now ask yourself what you would be willing to do to end this human rights disaster. Or as Hassan Almrei once asked, what would you want others to do if YOU were in this horrific place?

We hope this fall that the remaining detainees will be able to have their applications for bail heard by the Federal Court: your financial support now will help us build strong bail packages.

Thanks for all of your support and activity over the past five years.


Matthew Behrens
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada

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