Mississauga’s Hassan Almrei will spend an eighth consecutive Christmas behind bars without ever being formally charged with a crime or standing trial.
Hundreds of his supporters, including jolly old St. Nick himself, reminded the federal government of that tonight when they staged a protest outside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in Toronto.
The suspected Cooksville terrorist has been denied bail three times since his arrest at his Agnes St. apartment back in October 2001. He has been in custody since then.
Almrei is one of five Muslim foreigners held under a national security certificate that allows the Canadian government to detain them indefinitely as a threat to public safety based on secret evidence.
But, while the four other men have been released on strict conditions, Almrei remains in jail. He has even staged several hunger strikes to bring public and media attention to his case.
“Security certificates represent two-tier justice, the lowest-standard available because of the fact that those affected are refugees and permanent resident,” said Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada organization. “We’re here tonight to remind the Canadian public, government officials, and federal court judges that secret trials and deportations to torture cannot be subject to amendments and tinkering. They must be abolished.”
Almrei is now being held at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.
The federal government is continuing its efforts to deport the five Muslim men. All five are scheduled to go before Federal court judges soon.
“Even though the Supreme Court of Canada declared unconstitutional the process under which he has been detained, it is a telling indication of the Canadian government’s blind obedience to the fear-mongering lies of CSIS and the RCMP that he remains behind bars,” Behrens said earlier. “All he has ever asked is for the government to charge him if there is a case to be made, or release him so he can get on with what remains of his life.”
The Syrian-born Almrei’s bid to be released received a huge boost last year when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law that has allowed federal authorities to keep him behind bars.
The country’s high court ruled the old security certificate system, used by the federal government to detain people without charging them on the basis that they’re an alleged threat to national security, violates the charter of rights.
Almrei was being detained under that process for more than five years.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, the federal government earlier this year filed an updated national security certificate against Almrei, renewing its intention to deport him from Canada over allegations he is connected to terrorists.
Under the new law, a special legal advocate can now check on the state by challenging the government’s claims that evidence must be kept secret. They also can challenge the relevance and weight of the facts.
CSIS alleges Almrei is linked to terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
Almrei said he has never had anything to do with bin Laden, and denied any links to terrorism.
In interviews with The News, Almrei has consistently expressed fear that he will be tortured if he’s sent back to his native Syria, a country with a horrid human rights record, according to Amnesty International.
Almrei admitted to training in a military camp in Afghanistan in 1991-92, but not to become a terrorist. He told the court he wanted to help Afghani refugees who were devastated by the Russian invasion.