Multi-faith walk calls for Canada to release "Secret Trial Five"

TORONTO (17 September 2004) -- ONE HUNDRED people walked through the streets of Toronto on 12 September 2004, calling on the Canadian government to release five Muslim men who have been imprisoned for a cumulative total of over thirteen years without charges, and without opportunity to defend themselves against the vague accusations made against them. The walkers, most of them Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, also called for the release of the thousands of people without legal recourse whom the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq have also jailed. Christian Peacemaker Teams, Campaign to Stop Secret Trials, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, and Tikkun Toronto sponsored the public witness.

The group gathered at the headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which arrested Mohammed Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei, and Mohamed Harkat. Mona el-Fouli, wife of Mohammed Mahjoub, spoke of the pain she and her children have endured over the last years of separation from their husband and father. Four of the detainees are married, and they have eleven children among them.

The men are held under "security certificates," authorized by the Minister of Public Safety which allege the men pose threats to national security. Neither the accused nor their lawyers have the right to examine the allegations. Dr. Aly Hindy, imam of Salaheddin mosque declared, "The secrecy which enshrouds the prolonged imprisonment of these men bears the mark of a police state, not the kind of democratic and freedom-cherishing country which Canada aspires to be."

The Canadian government ultimately aims to deport the men to their countries of birth, where Amnesty International says their lives would be in danger.
From the CSIS building, the vigilers walked to the U.S. consulate, the city courthouse, and the headquarters of Canada's governing party, the Liberals. At each station, a prayer was said from one of the religious traditions and children of the detained men released white pigeons, symbolizing freedom.
At the U.S. consulate, Stewart Vriesinga, a member of CPT's Iraq team, spoke as an Iraqi prisoner, telling of how U.S. troops have come into homes on night raids and torn people away from their families. Some families have found no trace of their loved ones to this day.

At the courthouse, Shahid Akhtar, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, said that people must join together in the struggle to ensure that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Human Rights Laws are applied to all regardless of race, color, place of origin or the faith one adheres to. In the closing prayer of the afternoon, Diana Ralph, a member of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials and Tikkun Toronto, marked the opening of the Jewish High Holy Days by saying a prayer of atonement for herself. She called also on Canadians in general and the Liberal Party in particular to atone for their complicity and responsibility in allowing these men to be deprived of their liberty and to be separated from their families without a fair and open trial.

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