Sept 9, 2005
Personal comment to the very important article and
supporting information below:
For two years, Hassan Almrei and Ernst Zundel had cells
next to each other. To the extent this was possible in the inhuman
conditions of the Toronto West Detention Centre, they became friends and
tried to help each other. I smuggled in a personal copy of Ernst's
"Setting the Record Straight: Letters from Cell # 7" for
Hassan, and I believe that Ernst even succeeded in autographing it.
Ernst described Hassan as a gentle young man who felt
hopeless to the point of suicide by what was happening to him, inflicted
by a sadistic, murderous outfit called CSIS - the Canadian Security
Intelligence Service. Canadian neo-cons!
As Ernst's wife, I made repeated attempts to contact the
Arab and Muslim community in Canada, offering to combine our outreach
efforts to greater effectiveness, since Ernst had the highest political
profile of the six internees held on Security Certificates in Canada.
I wrote to Mrs. Arar. No answer. I sent my people to
join the Arab demonstrations. They were insulted and snubbed.
I contacted every human rights personality and group in Canada I knew.
Not a single reply. I shared many press releases with my media group
- all to no avail. I was summarily ignored by the Arab/Muslim
community because the artificial public odium attached to the name
"Ernst Zundel" was held to be a political liability the Canadian
Arab/Muslim community could simply not afford.
Too bad. Together we could have ended the obscenity
inflicted by CSIS on their innocent victims two years ago.
I wish Hassan Almrei and the other detainees well. I
am still willing to do what I can, even though my husband is no longer in
Ingrid Rimland Zundel, Ed.D.
Hassan Almrei ends 73-day hunger strike
on a hopeful note
Hundreds Rally outside Metro West as RCMP Refuses
Charter of Rights and Freedoms
September 3, 2005, Toronto -- A remarkable week came to a
remarkable conclusion today as Hassan Almrei, a Syrian refugee on day 73
of his hunger strike from his solitary confinement cell in Metro West
Detention Centre, decided to suspend his hunger strike because of the hope
he has been given by many people across Canada.
Shortly after 4 pm, as over 300 people gathered around the
entrance to the Metro West, Almrei was able to call out from his cell and
announce through a friend that he had broken the hunger strike. He was
overcome with emotion as he heard the gathered throng cheering in support.
Acknowledging the numerous demonstrations which took place
across Canada this week, and the work of thousands of people calling and
writing the politicians responsible for his conditions, Hassan, in a
dictated statement, said, "The hunger strike is my only voice in
here. It is the only way I have to wake people up to what is going on in
here. You, the Canadian people, have helped me make my voice very
loud and clear. I want to thank you a million times for this. My words
can't express how much I feel and appreciate your support, and your
concern about my health. I wish there were something I could give all of
"Mahatma Gandhi went on hunger strikes in India.
Sometimes he would stop them when he saw positive things happening, when
he saw a reason to believe in hope. Because of the new hope you have given
me, today I will end my hunger strike, but NOT my struggle for my
rights." (full statement below) Almrei urged those attending and
those who would read about the rally later to continue contacting the
Ontario ministry, since his court date is still well over a month away.
The statement was read at a spirited rally outside the
prison where Almrei, along with Mohammad Mahjoub (still on hunger strike,
day 59) and Mahmoud Jaballah have all been held on secret trial security
certificates for well over four years, without charge, bail, or an
opportunity to see the case against them.
Yesterday in Montreal, a delegation of physicians and
nurses delivered a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin expressing their
concern about the health of Almrei and Mahjoub. "It is shocking that
people have to resort to a hunger strike to demand conditions that we feel
to be so basic and justified. Furthermore, it is imperative to understand
that if this hunger strike continues much longer, a fatal outcome or at
least a disability is to be expected. This is an entirely avoidable
outcome and for these reasons we urge your urgent and immediate
intervention to avoid an extremely regrettable consequence in anticipation
of the upcoming Labour Day long weekend."
Throughout the week there have been demonstrations to
support the demands of both hunger strikers. In Montreal on Monday, Warren
Allmand, Alexandre Trudeau, Janet Cleveland and numerous others spoke in
front of Justice Minister Irwin Cotler's office, seeking his intervention
in the case. Trudeau noted that the Toronto detainees are held under
conditions far worse than those enjoyed by the "worst criminals in
this country." By Wednesday, former NDP leader Alexa McDonough
issued a statement urging Cotler to do the same.
In Ottawa on Thursday, banners were hung from the
Mackenzie Bridge while another rally of 60 people was held later in the
day demanding justice for the hunger strikers. Among those demonstrating
was Sophie Harkat, whose husband, Mohamed Harkat, remains detained under
similar circumstances in Ottawa.
That afternoon in Vancouver, there was a rally of about 50
people, and over 100 letters that were signed by passersby were faxed to
Ontario's Minister of Corrections and Community Safety Monte Kwinter the
next day. A London, Ontario rally was also staged by People for Peace in
front of a local detention centre where numerous individuals are detained
on immigration holds.
And in what is slowly becoming a long-sought response, and
a potential CSIS nightmare, members of Toronto's Muslim community gathered
Thursday night to start discussions on how to start speaking out about
secret trials and other civil rights violations directed at their
community. In front of the families of Mr. Mahjoub and Mr. Jaballah,
leaders of the community publicly apologized for their failure to stand
with them through these last five years, and pledged their political and
financial support. The group was urged to adopt the tactics of the U.S.
civil rights movement, which engaged in nonviolent action throughout the
American South in the 1950s and 1960s to achieve the kinds of rights which
are now being denied to members of the Arabic and Muslim communities in
The fruits of that meeting were evident today as almost
half the crowd was made of up members of the GTA Muslim community, who
cheered speaker after speaker denouncing the conditions of detention for
the secret trial detainees. Kike Roach, the lawyer representing Hassan,
spoke passionately about the difficulties Hassan has faced, while Zafar
Bangesh of the Islamic Society of York Region delivered a rousing
condemnation of the injustices which have been directed at the secret
trial detainees and their families.
Among other speakers were Alexandre Trudeau, currently
making a documentary on secret trials and a bail surety for Hassan, and
Natercia Coelho, who spoke about the need to view such cases as these --
as well as that of her husband, Gary Freeman, currently detained over a
year while fighting extradition to the U.S. for an incident in 1969 --
as ones in which human rights must trump all other considerations,
something which the Canadian government has been failing to do. Coelho's
speech was a good reminder that the secret trials represent the tip of an
iceberg of injustice across this country.
Midway through the rally, a phone call was received from
Mahmoud Jaballah, who thanked those gathered for their prayers and support
via a cell phone hooked up to a microphone. He was followed by emotional
stories from Ahmad Jaballah, the oldest of six children, his sister, Afnan,
and their youngest sibling, Ali. A family friend spoke about the amazing
strength of the family going through this ordeal, and urged all there to
come to court this Wednesday, September 7, at 10:30 am at 361 University
Ave to be with Jaballah as he seeks the right to seek bail in Federal
The rally closed with words from Steve Watson of the
Canadian Autoworkers. Watson is activist who has walked the walk with the
secret trials campaign from the very beginning and someone whose
President, Buzz Hargrove, was the one of the first union leaders in Canada
to speak out on the issue. Numerous members of the CAW and United
Steelworkers were in attendance, and one CAW activist brought forward 500
letters of support for the hunger strikers' demands that had been signed
at his plant, and which will be sent to Monte Kwinter on Tuesday.
Today's rally was organized with the Toronto Coalition to
Stop the War, which is planning a major rally at the U.S. Consulate at 1
pm in Toronto on Saturday, September 24, as well as numerous Muslim
organizations and the secret trials campaign.
At the end of the rally, the group walked for about 20
minutes to the local RCMP detachment to present a gift of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since the RCMP and CSIS violate them so
often, the idea went, they had probably lost their office copy and could
use a new one. As has happened to similar gifts at both the RCMP and CSIS
over the past 5 or so years, the gifts were refused.
THERE IS STILL MUCH TO BE DONE TO
END THE TRAGEDY OF SECRET TRIALS IN CANADA
Hassan is hoping that folks will continue contacting Monte
Kwinter and Anne McLellan, urging that they change his conditions of
detention. Mohammad Mahjoub is asking the same.
To hear Hassan interviewed live on Toronto's CKLN on
Day 70 of his hunger strike, go to this weblink:
BELOW ARE HASSAN'S STATEMENT AND THE LETTER DELIVERED BY
MONTREAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS ON FRIDAY:
September 3, 2005
This is a note for the people of Canada, and for all the
people demonstrating today at this jail.:
I, Hassan Almrei, am in day 73 of my sixth hunger strike
since October, 2001, when I was arrested on a security certificate. I have
not been charged with anything, ever, in this country or in Syria, and my
home for the past four years has been four walls in a 9 X 12 solitary
confinement cell. I am held on secret evidence.
My hunger strike is not just for myself. It is for all the
people who face these conditions of detention. I am sad that the Ontario
government will not give me my basic human rights. These rights are in
international law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is why we
need to go to court on October 11 to fight for these rights. I wish the
government would save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and
give me my rights, but they are insisting we go to court.
Many people have asked me to stop my hunger strike. They
have said how upset they are. They have sympathy for these issues. I
appreciate this. But sympathy is not enough. People need to speak up, to
challenge this secret evidence, the deportations to torture, this
indefinite detention in solitary confinement, for me, for the other secret
trial detainees, for anyone in this situation.
In the past week, I have heard about demonstrations in
Canada supporting my demands. I have heard that hundreds and hundreds of
people have been writing, calling, faxing Monte Kwinter, Paul Martin, Anne
McLellan, and Joe Volpe. This has given me hope.
Despite everything that has happened to me, I still think
Canada is the best country in the whole world. The response of the
Canadian people to my hunger strike confirms this for me. When they know
what is really happening, people in Canada do care. I also want to thank
the guards in segregation and the health unit at Metro West, who have
shown very great concern for me during this hunger strike.
The hunger strike is my only voice in here. It is the only
way I have to wake people up to what is going on in here. You, the
Canadian people, have helped me make my voice very loud and clear. I
want to thank you a million times for this. My words can't express how
much I feel and appreciate your support, and your concern about my health.
I wish there were something I could give all of you.
Mahatma Gandhi went on hunger strikes in India. Sometimes
he would stop them when he saw positive things happening, when he saw a
reason to believe in hope.
Because of the new hope you have given me, today I will
end my hunger strike, but NOT my struggle for my rights.
So please, as my voice on the outside, I need you to keep
speaking up, to not be afraid, and to come to court on October 11 for my
hearing. I need you to speak up about the secret trials, about the
conditions of detention, about the deportations to torture.
I hope I can meet each and every one of you someday soon.
But for now, someone else holds the key to my door.
Thank you very much. Hassan Almrei
The following letter was
delivered to an official in the Prime Minister's Montreal office by a
delegation of eleven health professionals on Friday.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
The undersigned health professionals would like to express
our rave concern about the effects of the hunger-strike and conditions of
detention on the health of Mr. Hassan Almrei and Mr. Mohammad Mahjoub.
As you know, these two men have been ingesting only water
and some orange juice, for 72 days in the case of Mr. Almrei and 58 in the
case of Mr. Mahjoub. This is an excessively prolonged period for such a
severe hunger strike. In comparison, may we remind you that the duration
of Mr. Almrei's hunger-strike dangerously approaches the maximum survival
time for the Irish political prisoners of the 1980's, some of whom died
after a much shorter hunger strike. According to the information we
have, Mr. Almrei has already lost 50 pounds. It is important to note that
a weight loss of 35-50% of initial body weight is considered to be
incompatible with life. Given that the average male weighs approximately
150 pounds, the weight loss that has already occurred appears alarming.
Despite the ingestion of a little sugar and vitamins, the
risk of death due to overwhelming infections, heart arrhythmias, or the
dysfunction and failure of vital organs is quite high, if not imminent.
Grave and permanent sequelae, including severe neurological impairment and
other complications, can be predicted if the hunger strike continues, as
well as further complications with the cessation of the strike and medical
Additionally, the conditions of detention to which the two
men are subject are far from conducive to physical and mental health. In
fact, a balanced diet and a modicum of physical exercise constitute the
most basic requirements of physical health. Moreover, a sense of security
about the future as well as significant and regular human contact are
among the essential conditions for safeguarding mental health. These
fundamentals appear to be absent from the current conditions under which
Mr. Almrei and Mr. Mahjoub are detained, in complete contradiction
with the directives of our various professional orders. Prolonged solitary
confinement, the uncertainty of the legal proceedings, the threat of
deportation to a country which practices torture constitute treatment
which is comparable to psychological torture, and which we denounce as
injurious to mental health.
In conclusion, we regard the conditions under which Mr.
Almrei and Mr.
Mahjoub are currently detained to be unacceptable from a
It is shocking that people have to resort to a hunger
strike to demand conditions that we feel to be so basic and justified.
Furthermore, it is imperative to understand that if this hunger strike
continues much longer, a fatal outcome or at least a disability is to be
expected. This is an entirely avoidable outcome and for these reasons we
urge your urgent and immediate intervention to avoid an extremely
regrettable consequence in anticipation of the upcoming Labour Day long
Nazila Bettache, MD
Janet Cleveland, PhD
Pierre Dongier, MD
Catherine Gagnon, RN
Samir Hussain, MD
Amir Khadir, MD
Marie Munoz, MD
Marie Jo Ouimet, MD
Olivier Sabella, MD
Scott Weinstein, RN
Gerald van Gurp, MD
(summary prepared by Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to
Stop Secret Trials in Canada. As we continue to build towards what we hope
will be the aboliton of secret trials and deportations, we are as always
grateful for any donations which folks can provide to pay our expenses.
Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 73620, 509
St. Clair Ave.
West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0. Our website is www.homesnotbombs.ca
Thanks to everyone for all their support this past week.
Let's keep moving forward!
Please visit also: www.apm-ram.org
Please see also: http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/
===== ===== =====
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