- Good Morning from the Zundelsite:
- The Zundel hearings are still in progress. Another day
- today - has been added.
- John Farrell, the one-time petty thief turned CSIS
turned CSIS snitch turned Catholic school teacher, is on the stand. Ernst
told me last night that he had never, in all his experiences in dozens
of courts on several continents, seen such a difficult cross-examination.
The Zundel defense team is brilliant, not giving an inch. The government
is running massive, furious interference, aided by Judge Blais who clearly
has his marching orders from his handlers. Get this: In the middle of
this court day, Judge Blais heard secret evidence - probably a
- Blais, one-time CSIS boss, hates Farrell, and it shows.
Of course - why wouldn't he? Farrell let the cat out of the bag about
the criminal activities of CSIS. At the same time, Judge Blais must
his former turf by having no choice but to protect Farrell - when he'd
much rather wring his neck, we guess.
- What a disgusting spectacle!
- I am waiting for Paul Fromm to send me a detailed report
for my readers - and my records. Meanwhile, "Setting the Record
Letters from Cell #7" is big conversation fodder for the guards at
the Toronto West Detention Center, where Ernst and other so-called
certificate" prisoners are being held in inhuman conditions. Many
guards are openly rooting for for the book, hoping it will be a
- Actually, according to Canadian booksellers criteria,
it already has become a bestselling title - more than 5,000 copies have
been sold, largely on word of mouth alone. Orders are still streaming
- One of the Arabs, last name Almrei, in the cell next
to Ernst, has received his own copy, courtesy of a not-so-mysterious donor
who paid for it and shipped it, since only paperbacks with an invoice
"Paid" are allowed. He loves it. He and Ernst have struck up
quite a friendship on the rare occasions they can share a few words.
- Other than Almrei, the Arabs stay away from the Zundel
case, which is a pity. We share the same enemies and could share names,
experiences, and pertinent data. I wrote to Maher Arar's wife - Arar is
the rendition victim who was kidnapped in America while traveling and
to be tortured in Syria. The Arar case has the same CSIS footprint as
Ernst's. Arar's wife seems to be a sharp, courageous lady, who fought
hard to get her husband back. I sent her a copy of Ernst's book and
cooperation. There was no response - and only last night I found out that
at the very least, the Canadian arm of their multi-million dollar lawsuit
for damages is in some Jewish-led law firm's hands. Good luck! That
the reluctance. That's analogous to making Henry Kissinger the head of
the 9/11 inquiry!
- Since we are speaking of Abu Ghraib North, here is a
write-up about another CSIS victim, Mahjoub, also held in that hell-hole,
also being verbally abused by state prosecutor MacIntosh whose specialty
is heaping smears on the people he is to convict. This Arab victim was
slated to be farmed out for torture - but apparently "saved"
at the last minute, at least for now. [START]
- Mahjoub Spared Torture in Egypt for Now:
- Temporary Stay Granted in Deportation of Egyptian Refugee
Held Four Years Without Charge at Toronto's Metro West Detention
- TORONTO, SEPTEMBER 8, 2004 -- A chartered jet was
to fly Mohammad Mahjoub out of Canada this afternoon and return him to
Egypt and a future of prison, torture, and cruel and unusual punishment.,
But that flight was cancelled shortly after 1 pm when a stay was granted,
temporarily preventing this illegal deportation.
- A group of relieved supporters, including Mahjoub's wife
Mona El-Fouli and members of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada,
noted that although Mahjoub is "safe" for now, he returns this
evening to his solitary confinement cell at Metro West Detention Centre
to continue an indefinite period of incarceration which has been marked
by endless humiliation and abuse.
- That ill-treatment was the focus of yesterday's hearing,
part of a constitutional challenge to his lengthy detention. Today's
decision on deportation was a bit of an ironic trade-off that spared
the torture of Egypt for the torture of Canada, where being held over 4
years without being shown a shred of evidence why is torture enough. Add
to that an attempted sexual assault upon Mahjoub, numerous death threats
from guards, lack of access to medical care to deal with high blood
and hepatitis C, rampant racism and anti-Muslim slurs, and one begins to
see that Mahjoub has few choices available to him as his case slowly makes
its way through the courts.
- Today's hearing began with a brief bit of testimony from
Deirdre Gilker, the Operations Manager for Removals at the Greater Toronto
Enforcement Centre (GTEC), a deportation factory that splits apart families
on a regular basis to meet its deportation quotas. Gilker stated quietly
that GTEC is prepared to remove Mahjoub from Canada, that a valid travel
document is available, and that the deportation is imminent.
- She would not say when and where Mahjoub would depart
from, as this was a "security" concern. She also neglected to
mention that her boss, the immigration department, had concluded in a risk
assessment that Mahjoub would likely face torture upon his return to Egypt.
No, her job is cut and dried: receive a piece of paper with Mahjoub's name
on it, ensure he is "removal ready" (much like a slab of rotten
meat being prepared for the dumpster), and then dispense with him. No
no moral afterthought, just another day on an assembly line of
- Mahjoub's attorney Barb Jackman asks Gilker if he will
be sent out on a commercial airliner. Gilker says she cannot comment for
security reasons. Jackman counters that "we all know it won't be a
commercial airline -- they won't take these cases," and wonders why
Gilker finds it so difficult to deny this.
- Immigration Dept. lawyer Donald MacIntosh jumps up in
the first of numerous over-the-top outbursts today with the point that
Mahjoub is a dangerous guy, as testified to over a year ago when some 60-70
SWAT team members from Metro Police and the RCMP walked the hallways of
the court with sub-machineguns during a bail hearing. (Of course, no such
security is on hand today, but this escapes Mr. MacIntosh, who seems to
forget such displays, though, rare, are only required once to leave a
impression in the public's and the judge's mind.)
- His objection is sustained by Judge Eleanor Dawson, and
the arguments for a stay begin. Jackman points out that both sides agree
Mahjoub is at risk if returned to Egypt, and that the assurance he will
not be harmed comes from a general in the Egyptian security force GIS,
implicated in many human rights abuses. "What they have is an
from a torturer that he won't torture," Jackman notes.
- She says that since numerous important issues raised
by the Mahjoub file are still before the courts, removing him now would
rob him of the potential justice that he seeks by having these issues dealt
with. Indeed, if he were returned to Egypt, it is unlikely a government
known for major human rights violations would allow him to return to Canada
for future court dates which, if victorious, would result in Mahjoub being
allowed to stay in Canada.
- Jackman also quotes from expert testimony and an Amnesty
International document which clearly show the grave risk to Mahjoub if
- MacIntosh rises and, with little reference to relevant
case law, instead goes on what is becoming increasingly common in these
proceedings: a raving rant that makes him sound like George W. Bush on
mega-doses of steroids. MacIntosh claims "separation of families [by
deportation] does not lead to irreparable harm" and cautions the judge
against allowing the best interests of the children to trump other
He then repeatedly attacks Mahjoub, calling him a liar, perjurer, a sneaky,
devious, dangerous man who seems to have tricked the
Amnesty International and who, by calling himself a devout Muslim, insults
the majority of the world's Muslims.
- After all, he points out, Mahjoub is [allegedly] tied
to groups that are "seeking weapons of mass destruction." Oh
oh, he's used the WMD word. Last time we heard that, WMD were being denied
as an issue even by the Bush administration, whose own intelligence
on the issue are well-known. Like a similar outburst at the hearing of
Mahmoud Jaballah a few weeks back, this is an embarrassing torrent of empty
rhetoric which, as Barb Jackman points out, seems to be issued more for
the benefit of the press than for the benefit of the court.
- Jackman points out that there has never been any
evidence that Mahjoub is any of these things, for the test in a security
certificate is "the lowest standard of proof in the courts. The test
is whether the facts are POSSIBLY true, not even PROBABLY
- "The best experts on intelligence went to war and
thousands of lives have been lost in Iraq on evidence that wasn't
she reminds the court.
- Jackman points out there are numerous alternative courses
for the government to follow, including releasing Mahjoub on strict bail
conditions. Better yet, "if he's such a terrorist, charge him under
the anti-terrorism legislation and show him the evidence. But they haven't
done that because they [the government] don't have a case to
- After a half hour break, Justice Dawson returns with
her decision. There are, she says, three issues that need to be addressed
in the application: is this a serious issue, would irreparable harm result
from Mahjoub being deported, and whether the balance of convenience shows
he would suffer greater harm in being deported than the inconvenience to
the minister of Immigration in granting the stay.
- Dawson says she is satisfied on all three counts, quoting
liberally from the Amnesty International and expert human rights opinions
which have been offered. She says a denial of the stay would make his
judicial review of the deportation decision "nugatory," so
harm has been established.
- "If it appears he will not stay in detention,"
she says, then he must be brought before the court on an urgent basis to
review the stay decision.
- It was the conclusion of an emotional two days that began
Tuesday morning, with the continuation of Mahjoub's testimony about prison
conditions. After having argued for a partially closed hearing for his
own protection, he decided instead that he would speak out about those
conditions, despite considerable risk to him at the prison.
- "Mr. Mahjoub fully understands the risks he is
It would be his preference not to face those risks," his attorney
John Norris begins, but Mahjoub is concerned that the truth get out.
- He then goes on to detail some of the horrible incidents
which have occurred at the jail. On March 7, 2001, upon returning from
court, he was strip searched, during which he politely asked to keep his
boxer shorts on, as Muslim men are not allowed to appear naked in front
of anyone else.
- "The guard exploded with anger, calling me names,
being abusive toward me and my family, and Muslims in general,"
explains. "'You are supposed to be killed, not just you but all
Mahjoub quotes the guard as saying to him.
- Mahjoub tried to describe to the guard what it was to
be a Muslim, about not drinking or taking drugs.
- "'I don't give a fuck about your fucking religion,
this is not your fucking country,'" Mahjoub recalls the guard
at him. Mahjoub said he would charge the guard, after which the guard told
him, "People like you should be killed. All Muslims should be
Mahjoub then says the guard pointed to a fellow inmate in the area and
asked the inmate, "How can you live with this fucking piece of shit
[Mahjoub]? I'm surprised you didn't do anything to him."
- Mahjoub made a complaint about this and numerous other
such incidents to the jail authorities, to the Ontario Ombudsman, and
human rights bodies, but little or no action appeared to have taken place
- Mahjoub freely gave names and badge numbers of officers
involved in these incidents, again a very courageous move considering the
possible retribution he might face back at the jail.
- After September 11, 2001, Mahjoub said, "My life
was turned into something like hell. My family also suffered."
- On September 14, 2001, one of the female officers told
him to collect his things and led him to solitary confinement, without
telling him what was going on. When he kept inquiring, she became very
angry with him, yelling out that he would be deported to the United States.
He asked to contact his wife and lawyer, but that was refused.
- After he eventually met with then security chief Nelson
Cardoza, who reassured him that he would not be deported to the U.S., the
guard was confronted with this information, and denied everything.
- In segregation, he was given a "security gown,"
a sleeveless, loose T-shirt which doesn't cover the body properly and
provides no warmth. He learned that such gowns were given to people on
- "I was confused, I was not a violent man or
suicide. If they think these things will prevent a suicide they are
These things are meant to destroy the person."
- He was kept between 21 and 24 days in solitary, five
days of them in a cell with no lighting and a toilet that flushed only
once a day.
- He was taken back to general population but then again
transferred to segregation in December, where he froze, asking for blankets
which never came. Each time he asked why, "I was told 'because you
are a prisoner. When you go home you can turn the heat up.'"
- Mahjoub says "it was ridiculous, like a
at which he breaks down, requiring time to collect himself. He recalls
having no towel to wash and prepare for prayers (for Muslims, being clean
before prayer is a key part of religious practice), no soap, no toothpaste,
and he had to use his drinking glass to wash his body as well.
- He recalls one particularly horrifying incident when,
after being up all night consumed with worry, he finally fell asleep around
5 am, shortly after which a guard started banging on his door, screaming
obscenities about him and his family, "threatening to kill me, to
slaughter me. He even made the sign of his finger around his neck"
to show what was in store for Mahjoub.
- "The sound felt like an earthquake. I jumped out
of bed, I was so frightened, I froze, unable to say anything."
- "You are a fucking Muslim terrorist," the guard
told him. "I will kill you, you are a motherfucker goof." Mahjoub
names the guard and says he still works at the institution.
- When Mahjoub made a complaint to another guard, he was
told, "You must be dreaming."
- As Mahjoub goes through this, I am reminded of what a
palliative care nurse once said about her patients. "Look at the brow,
look at the forehead, see if there's wrinkles there, and if there are,
- As Mahjoub gives his testimony, you can see the pain
in his forehead. His eyes dart about as if he is seeking a safe place to
curl up and make the painful memories go away. His brow is deeply furrowed
at times, and he notes there is one incident so severe that he refuses
to discuss it; thelast time he talked about it in court he went through
a month of emotional and psychological trauma. "I felt like a person
who had lost his mind, gone crazy."
- He details being sent back and forth to segregation
explanation. Although locked away for anywhere from 23 and a half to 24
full hours each day, he says he was strip searched about 3/4 of the time
while held there.
- He says one night, December 14, 2003, he was playing
chess in his cell with two other prisoners when he collapsed on the floor
in pain, experiencing double vision, dizziness, sweating, headache. The
others begged guards to get him medical attention. The guards refused to
allow a nurse to enter the cell and check his blood pressure, and demanded
Mahjoub get up and walk out. He was in such pain that he could not move,
so they ended up hauling him out of the cell and dragging him some 100
metres not to the health unit but to solitary confinement. The nurse asked
guards to call 911 to take Mahjoub to the hospital, but they ignored this
request. "You either walk with us or we'll drag you," the guards
said, refusing his request for a wheelchair.
- "My head was banging against the guards' feet. One
of the guards said this is not the way to treat an inmate." While
the guards joked that Mahjoub was in fact just upset at the capture of
Saddam Hussein earlier that day, he wound up on the floor of his solitary
cell, screaming in pain and receiving no treatment. He was given no
or blanket, and instead thrown a security gown that remained on the floor
- One week later, tests confirmed he had Hepatitis
- During cross examination, government lawyer Daniel Roussy
attacks Mahjoub mercilessly. After Mahjoub reveals he was on a 39-day
strike, Roussy condemns him because it appears he has put some weight on
since coming off the long-term denial of food.
- "Would you not agree you have had good medical
Roussy asks him, counting the visits of a number of health
- "No," Mahjoub responds, pulling out a photo
of a prisoner being dragged at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and stating,
"This is how I was dragged! How can you call this good medical
- Roussy insists a prison report says that the night
was dragged to solitary he was "verbally abusive" and
to get up.
- Mahjoub responds that he did not refuse to get up, he
simply could not rise. As for being verbally abusive, there is no report
of disciplinary action or infractions, usually a result of verbal abuse
towards guards. It appears, Mahjoub says, that someone has lied in the
making of that report.
- As he goes through the reports, those of us who have
been working on the campaign begin to see an interesting pattern emerge,
one that shows that public pressure works. On two separate dates, Mahjoub
says he was moved, without explanation, out of solitary confinement and
back to thegeneral population. Both dates correspond with demonstrations
held by the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials outside the detention
- Mahjoub will likely not receive a decision on his
release application until the end of the year, and a date has yet to be
set for judicial review of his deportation decision. In the meantime, he
is relieved about the stay, and bemused that so much hot air was expended
on him by government lawyers today. He wishes to thank those who have come
to court, supported his family, and sent him cards and letters, and hopes
people in Canada will continue writing to Anne Mclellan to stop the
and end his long-term incarceration.
- On a related note, charges against four people who were
arrested at CSIS national headquarters last October 31 while
for secret evidence will be dismissed Friday morning in Ottawa. After
a year of requesting proper disclosure from the demonstration -- everything
from RCMP security reports and video surveillance to CSIS plans for the
demonstration and a subpoena for Ward Elcock, former head of CSIS -- the
Crown has said they have no evidence against us (yah, right) and so charges
will be dismissed. Guess CSIS did not any more bad press...
- Members of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials will be
joined by Christian Peacemaker Teams, Tikkun, and the Canadian Assdociation
of Jews and Muslims this Sunday, Sept. 12 at 1:30 pm in Toronto at CSIS
HQ, 277 Front Street West, for a multifaith march through downtown Tornto.
The event is preceded the evening before with a CPT benefit at 9 pm at
the Reverb (Bathurst and Queen).