One Month of Hassan's Hunger Strike: Report from the Shoe-Off
RALLY MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 11:45 AM, SOLIDARITY SHOE-OFF FOR HASSAN MARKS ONE MONTH ON HUNGER STRIKE
THE INTERNATIONAL RAMADAN SOLIDARITY
OCT. 27 -- NOV. 26
HASSAN ALMREI'S PLEA FOR DIGNITY: DAY 24 OF HUNGER STRIKE
REPORT ON HASSAN'S DAY IN COURT, OCTOBER 21: IT'S NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK
DAY 18 OF HASSAN'S HUNGER STRIKE: GROWING WEAK AS GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO LISTEN
Emergency Vigil and Press Conference Tuesday, October 14, 12 Noon, 25 Grosvenor (Ministry of Public Safety and Security, near Yonge and College) to present a heater for Hassan and Release a Classified Document Relating to Lethal Cold in Solitary Cells at Metro West
Rally Marks Two Years in Solitary Sunday, October 19. For Details Click here
URGENT ACTION REQUIRED TO SUPPORT CANADIAN SECRET TRIAL PRISONER, NOW IN SEVENTH DAY OF HUNGER STRIKE (October 5)
Hassan Almrei is a 29-year old refugee from Syria who has been held two years in solitary confinement in a Canadian prison as of October 19. He is held without charge or bail on the CSIS secret trial security certificate, on "evidence" neither he nor his lawyer is allowed to see. On this basis, he could be deported to Syria, where he will face torture and execution. Hassan has never been charged with, much less convicted, of any offence anywhere on the globe.
To hold someone on secret evidence, where they don't know why they are being treated so badly, is mental torture. Hassan's immediate demand is that there be proper heat in his solitary confinement cell, a cold, concrete block where he is freezing, unable to sleep at night, having to pace the floors to keep the blood flowing. He is not allowed shoes or a jacket, nor a space heater. Not having eaten for seven days means weight loss (almost 15 pounds since he began) and difficulty maintaining what little body temperature he has to begin with.
1. Show Hassan you support his just demand for heat, in the interim, and for a hearing in which there is no secret "evidence," over the longer term. Postcards or short letters of support can be sent to Hassan Almrei, Metro West Detention Centre, 111 Disco Road, Rexdale, ON M9W 5L6. Please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do write, so we can make sure he is getting his mail. Letters from outside of Canada welcomed as well.
2. Join in the chain fast in support of Hassan. Take a day or two when you will fast in support of Hassan's demand for heat and for an end to secret trials. Please let us know at email@example.com if you would want your name listed as part of the chain fast and when you are fasting. Notify your local media of what you are doing, and use the enclosed press release for background information. Hassan has said he will fast until he gets heat, and that could still be some time in the future.
3. Come to the Metro West Detention Centre on Sunday, October 19, the second anniversary of Hassan's arrest, for a vigil from 12 noon to 2 pm. To get a ride or if you can offer your vehicle to take others up to the jail, call us at (416) 651-5800 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Contact the new Ontario Minister of "Public Safety and Security" (as yet not announced) and demand that people like Hassan be given their right to the Minimum Standards for Prisoners as agreed to by Canada at the U.N (see below). Official Ontario policy states prison temperatures in winter must be no lower than 22 degrees Celsius, give or take one degree. That individual (Minister for now) can be reached at:
Minister of "Public Safety and Security"
25 Grosvenor St., 18th Flr., Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6
(416) 325-0408, fax: (416) 325-6067
please cc us at email@example.com if you can or at the PO Box listed at the top of the news release
4. Take part in the National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials, Friday, October 31. In Ottawa, there will be a large gathering at CSIS. If something is not planned in your community already, get in touch and we can discuss setting up a local vigil with flyers (or visit our website at www.homesnotbombs.ca for details)
5. Contact Immigration Minister Denis Coderre and demand that such punishment meted out against immigrants and refugees be stopped immediately. Demand as well that secret trials under the CSIS security certificate be stopped. Coderre can be reached at:
Denis Coderre, Immigration Minister
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 995-9755
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homesnotbombs.ca
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 3, 2003
29-year-old Syrian Refugee Hassan Almrei Has Spent Almost Two Full Years in Solitary Confinement
In a case that calls into serious question Canada's stated commitment to human rights, Hassan Almrei &endash; a 29-year-old Syrian refugee claimant held in solitary confinement since October 19, 2001 without charge or bail on secret "evidence" neither he nor his lawyer is allowed to see &endash; is dreading the prospect of a third winter at Metro West Detention Centre, where he is constantly shivering from the cold and has no access to shoes, a sweater or jacket.
Almrei is in day five of a hunger strike demanding some basic civil rights which, he feels, he would be accorded if he were in a federal prison, and not on an immigration hold at Metro West. He says that he can barely get sleep because he is so cold at night. While Ontario law requires that heat of at least 21 degrees Celsius be provided for tenants as of October 1, Almrei says at the warmest point of the day on Thursday, the temperature in his cell was only 16 degrees Celsius, and got much colder at night.
"Solitary confinement is both physical and mental torture, especially over a two-year period" says Almrei friend Matthew Behrens. "Add to this torture the fact that you can never get 'comfortable' because it it too cold, and we have a serious human rights violation on our hands. Hassan needs a heater to survive in there."
Almrei, who began a bail hearing in late June, suffered a major setback when the expected September continuation date for that hearing was carelessly bumped to the end of November by the Federal Court of Canada, forcing him to spend even more time in solitary. At the June hearing, immigration officials had no good reason why Almrei might not be transferred to a federal prison, where educational programs, better food, and access to a library would be a much improved place to await the outcomes of his judicial proceedings.
"It's remarkable that the court can blithely add another two months to the two years Hassan has already spent in solitary confinement, a condition which human rights organizations have condemned as cruel and unusual punishment," says Diana Ralph, a friend and bail surety for Almrei, and a member of Toronto's Jewish community whose father was a lawyer at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.
"It's not Hassan's fault that he is in solitary. Given the media hysteria surrounding his arrest, it was not safe for him to be with other prisoners, an experience echoed by the Pakistani victims of the RCMP's Project Thread," Ralph says. "But that doesn't mean he shouldn't have the same rights as other prisoners."
In the past 23 1/2 months, Almrei has been out of solitary confinement for a total of five days. For the rest of the time, Almrei, who arrived in Canada in 1999 seeking a peaceful life, has been locked in the hole for 23 hours a day. He has never been charged, nor convicted, of any offence anywhere in the world. He is not "wanted" for extradition by any government.
But like fellow Muslims Mahmoud Jaballah (held since August 2001), Mohammad Mahjoub (held since June, 2000), Mohamed Harkat (held since December 10, 2002) and now Adil Charkaoui (held since May), Almrei has been targetted by the CSIS secret trial security certificate. Neither he nor his lawyer, Barbara Jackman, is allowed to know the substance of the alleged evidence and, as has been the case with his fellow long-term detainees, Amnesty International has concluded Almrei's life is at risk if deported from Canada.
Jackman notes that Almrei was not accorded due process in his security certificate hearing because the court refused Almrei's right to testify "in camera" -- behind closed doors -- because his testimony might endanger his life if deported, or endanger loved ones in Syria. Jackman has been denied access to Almrei on numerous occasions, and his whole judicial ordeal has also included attempts by Immigration Canada to close his deportation hearing to the public.
"To know Almrei is to know a gentle human being who has been unfairly targetted in the post 9/11 crackdown on civil rights," says Almrei friend and bail supporter Behrens. "I have been inspired by his patience, his lack of hatred for those who have done this to him, and his hope that he will one day be released so he can get on with his life and open what he will call his Freedom Restaurant."
Almrei, who was working to get a pita business running, was picked up in the RCMP/CSIS sweeps of the Arabic and Middle Eastern communities after September 11, 2001.
In the public summary of allegations which CSIS has to disclose, it is claimed that Almrei is a threat based on his past involvement in the honey business in Saudi Arabia. CSIS says the bin Laden network funnels funds through honey businesses, so Almrei MIGHT be associated with support for terrorism. (Of course, by the same token, the makers of Billy Bee Honey in Canada MIGHT also be secretly up to no good, but they are not Muslim, and thus not likely to be surveilled by CSIS. Or to extend the logic, anyone who owns a Harley MIGHT be associated with the Hell's Angels. You see how it goes...).
As with other security certificate cases, it's all about guilt by alleged association, and a Federal Court judge (who must be approved by CSIS) is not bound to ensure that facts are confirmed, only that there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that such facts might possibly be true.
The other allegation CSIS has made is that Almrei was associated with Nabil Al-Marabh, who post-9/11 was deemed a major terrorist in banner North American headlines. The fact that Almrei readily admitted to CSIS that he knew Al-Marabh socially was seen by the judge who upheld the certificate as crucial to the case.
Yet a year later, after Almrei's certificate was upheld, anyone who reads the tiny follow-up articles that sometimes report the truth would have found that Al Marabh was not in fact the "terrorist threat" he was made out to be, and instead he was quickly convicted of a minor immigration infraction and faces a deportation hearing from the U.S. next week. If sent back to Syria, his liberty, indeed his life, is in question. The fact that Al-Marabh was not who he was made out to be should call into question the decision of the judge who upheld the certificate against Almrei.
Almrei, frustrated by the delay in getting access to a court hearing, as well as by the continued mental and physical torture of two years in solitary confinement, is seeking a transfer to a federal prison. Short of that, he wants a cell where he is not shivering day and night during the fall, winter and spring.
Campaign members point out that the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the United Nations in 1955 and re-affirmed in 1977, declare that "all accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation." They also state that "Every prisoner who is not allowed to wear his own clothing shall be provided with an outfit of clothing suitable for the climate and adequate to keep him in good health...Every prisoner who is not employed in outdoor work shall have at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily if the weather permits."
For more information, call (416) 651-5800.
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