SEPT. 11 DETAINEES GETTING BAIL, BETTER JAIL CONDITIONS
Conditions appear to be getting better for the men of Muslim and Middle Eastern background detained in Toronto since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, say their lawyers.
Although officials still refuse to say how many people have been detained, lawyers representing some of the men- many held in solitary confinement- say immigration and corrections officials appear to be gradually moderating the way they are handling the men.
Some have been released recently on bail to await refugee claim hearings, while others still in jail- including two men accused of being national security risks- have been taken out of solitary confinement.
“There was a little bit of overreaction at first, but now things are calming down a bit. I think they (immigration officials) began to realize they can’t detain people just because they are Arabs or Muslims,” said Toronto lawyer Lisa Winter-Card, who represents three detainees, all of whom have been released on bail pending refugee claim hearings.
“That’s the sense I’m getting,” she said, attributing the shift to media coverage of the issue, and a general cooling down from the heated emotions following the air attacks in the U.S.
Deepak Paradkar, who represents Nageed al-Hadi, a Yemeni man who Canadian officials detained Sept. 11 on behalf of the U.S. after his Chicago- bound flight was diverted here and he was found in possession of multiple passports, says that in late December al- Hadi was removed from solitary confinement at the Metro West Detention Centre.
Before al- Hadi was moved, Paradkar and co- counsel Gary Batasar had complained to the judge tin al- Hadi’s extradition case that their client was being subjected to harsh conditions in solitary confinement- little sunlight ,exercise or access to the telephone.
Al- Hadi’s extradition hearing is scheduled for March.
In addition, two men accused of being national security risks, and who were in custody prior to Sept. 11, were also recently moved out of solitary confinement. They are Mahmoud Jaballah, an Egyptian refugee accused of belonging to an Egyptian Islamic terrorist organization, and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, another Egyptian refugee awaiting deportation hearing after a judge upheld a certificate naming him a national security threat.
Some lawyers say they’ve been told that solitary confinement wasn’t intended as an additional form of punishment for the detainees, but rather a means of protecting them from inmates who may have believed the men were terrorists.
Ontario correctional services spokesperson Gail Solomon said yesterday that the superintendents of the province’s jails impose the security measures they deem to be appropriate.
Immigration officials won’t comment about the detainees, referring all calls to the Ontario corrections department.
Recently, The Star compiled a list of about a half- dozen men who were detained shortly after Sept. 11 in Toronto.
Published reports in other Canadian media suggest there are up to about 35 people across the country who were detained after the terror attacks in the U.S.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed recently that of nearly 1,300 people arrested by the FBI and the immigration and Naturalization Service, about half of them had been freed. Only about 11 are said to be “material witnesses” to the Sept. 11 attacks.