October 26, 2001
War on Terrorism
21 men who deserve the rule of law
Regardless of official protestations that no one has been arrested in relation to Sept. 11, mysterious men were popping up in prison jumpsuits in court proceedings across the country. Note to Muslims from the Middle East: Now is not a good time to smuggle yourself into Canada or the United States with more fake paperwork and airplane paraphernalia than socks. Most of us travel with a change of undies, not passports
Authorities providing little information about detainees with possible terror links.
Nageeb, which due to his affection for aliases is the only remotely safe way to refer to him, is a skinny, jumpy, dark- skinned guy whose current daily garb is a baggy bright orange jumpsuit.
He has more company than it appears he, or you and I, will ever know.
At Toronto’s Metro West Detention Centre alone, there may be 20 others being detained in the same segregation unit where the 35- year- old has been since September 11 on suspicion of unspecified terrorist links.
Nageeb’s full name, depending upon which of his various Yemeni passports you are reading- and these, like their Canadian counterparts, are so plentiful they should come with bubble gum- is Nageeb Abdul Jabar Mahamed Al- Hadi, or Najib Abdo Gabber Mohammed, or Mohammed Saleh Nagi Eghah, or Nageeb A. Jabber Al- Hadi.
Little is known about him ,even less about the company he is keeping at the Metro West and how they got to be in jail.
And how we know this?
Certainly, we don’t have it from the horse’s mouth.
Three horses- the provinvical corrections branch that operates the jail where Nageeb et al. are residing, the jail itself, and the federal immigration department- were yesterday referring all questions to one another, and, ultimately, to the horsemen, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, whose spokesperson, the agreeable Michele Paradis, said last night. “The RCMP hasn’t arrested anyone in connection with Sept. 11.”
Later last night, the immigration spokeswoman, Giovanna Gatti, confirmed that none of the 20 is being held in connection with the attacks of that awful day. What Ms. Gatti didn’t know is whether the men are suspected of having other terrorist links, or whether any are being held for national security reasons.
What we do have, from Nageeb’s lawyer, the reliable Deepak Paradkar, is his report of a conversation he recently had with Nelson Cordosa, the superintendent of the Metro West.
At the time, Mr. Paradkar and Nageeb’s other lawyer, the equally sensible Gary Batasar, were expressing concern for Nageeb’s welfare, alone 24 hours a day in a small cell.
Mr. Cordosa, Mr. Paradkar remembered yesterday.
” “Don’t worry,’ he said. “We have another 20 guys in isolation in the same unit.’ “ Mr. Paradkar said Mr. Cordosa said something to the effect that a;; “were related to possible terrorist links” or “held by authorities in connection with Sept. 11.”
And Mr. Batasar remembered, too, upon his first visit to see Nageeb, finding his name on a long list of other Arabic names, and being told he needed to make advance arrangements to visit his client.
And regardless of official protestations that heavens, no one has been arrested or detained in relation to Sept. 11, such mysterious men do keep popping up in their prison jumpsuits in court proceedings across the country. Clearly, someone in authority has deemed them suspicious, and someone has picked them up, and someone has detained them.
One trio, who has among them seven passports from six countries when they were arrested and who remain in detention in Fort McMurray, Alta., were also originally picked up on the same suspicion; they turned out to be merely disreputable.
These three- Emad Jamal Shawkat Hassan, Mohamadkhair Salh and Yousef al- Amleh- were arrested by the RCMP on October 12 and suspected of being connected to the World Trade Centre attacks.
This week, having spent days pouring through a vast array of documents seized at the trio’s apartment (including the seven passports, seven driver’s licences, 12 blank cards, 13 credit cards, currency from nine countries, education records, flight itineraries, social security cards, and most ominously, evidence of a flight maintenance course taken in Texas by Mr. Hassan), the Mounties agreed the men weren’t linked to September 11.
That prompted Mazer Chouaib of the National Council on Canada- Arab Relations, to bemoan that any poor Muslim “who has ever dreamed of being a pilot is now going to be profiled and scooped up for questioning.”
That is simply hysteria, but there’s a lot of it going around.
In truth, an ordinary Muslim wanting to take flight courses ot flying lessons might be asked a question or two, but unless he is also carrying a truckload of of fake passports or visas, is in the country illegally, and is on the lam from another nation, it is inlikely the questioning will last as long as it took you to read this sentence.
Note to Muslims from the Middle East: Now is not a good time to smuggle yourself into Canada or the United States with more fake papers and airplane paraphernalia than socks. Most of us travel with a change of undies. Not passports.
“Look,” said Mr. Paradkar yesterday, “it’s a serious time.”
“It’s important that those who were involved [in Sept. 11] be caught. And obviously, the circumstances [of Nageeb’s detention] do raise some eye browns.” Neither Mr. Paradkar nor Mr. Batasar suggested for a minute that security forces should not be viglant, or that it was unreasonable for them to havbe looked askance upon their client.
Nageeb had the misfortune of being found with his four passports when his flight from Germany to Chicago was diverted to Toronto on Sept. 11. His luggage, however, went on ahead of him, before U.S. airports were shut down, and there officials also found what are called in an RCMP affidavit, “two Lufthansa crew uniforms.”
Whether they were crew uniforms remains to be seen; Mr. Batasar hinted yesterday that Nageeb may have very well have once worked for LUfthanda, perhaps as a ticket agent. If so, Mr. Batasar pointed out, he would have had a uniform of sorts, likely paid for by himself, and been allowed to keep it.
It has also been reported, alberit in the Toronto Sun, whose stories thus far added together would suggest there is no dark- skinned Arab in the entire city without his own personal Mountie shadow, that Nageeb is linked, throughphone records, to Nabil Al- Marabh, the man who lived in Toronto for years and who is now among the formally acused al- Qaeda terrorists being held in the United States.
The difficulty, at the moment, is that the slim information before the courts about Nageeb is just that- slim. American officials are seeking his extradition to the United States, but have 60 days to file supporting evidence, and it is their custom, as Mr. Batasar said yesterday, “to wait until the 59th day” before doing it.
Amusingly, yesterday’s slated hearing for Nageeb was delayed yet again because his family in the Detroit area, who are willing to post surety for him pending the extradition proceedings, habe repeatedly been turned away by alert U.S. or Canadian border officials. In other words, the very people on whom Nageeb relies to post a bond so he can get out of jail are being refused entry because they know him.
Nageeb, meantime, is so fearful and jittery that he insists on scrutinizing his own lawyer’s identification.
His situation should hardly give rise to tearful outrage, nor that of the 20 others at the Metro West who may be in the same boat. But he was questioned for hours by the Mounties, without a lawyer, and he may not have realized he could ask for one. Mr. Paradkar knows of at least one other fellow- he got a phone call from the man- who was seeking a lawyer, but before Mr. Paradkar could get to the jail, the guy had been simply taken to the border and handed over to the Americans.
No due process; no rule of law: Even skinny guys in orange jumpsuits don’t deserve that, and someone in a suit should be saying, authoritatively, how many of them there are, or aren’t.