000 Fines Proposed for CSIS Sit-in Defendants
tasc at web.ca
Fri May 27 15:19:36 PDT 2005
$1,000 Fines Proposed for CSIS Sit-in Arrestees;
Bizarre JP Eventually Reduces fine to $50
SCARBOROUGH, MAY 27, 2005 -- The arbitrary nature of the secretive court
process which has jailed five Muslim men in Canada a collective total of
203 months was evident in the Scarborough municipal courthouse today for
the verdict and sentencing of three people charged following a brief,
nonviolent sit-in at the CSIS Toronto headquarters last October.
In a moment more fit for a circus sideshow than a "democratic
nation's" courtroom, a mumbling Justice of the Peace (JP) Cledwyn Longe
decided to deal with his own personal authority issues by laying $1,000
fines on Diana Ralph, Kirsten Romaine and Matthew Behrens, three of six
people charged at the sit-in, which marked three years in solitary
confinement for Hassan Almrei, one of the Secret Trial Five.
During their April trial, JP Longe behaved abusively towards the
defendants, making senseless and arbitrary orders, ignoring relevant video
testimony, and walking out in the middle of Mona Elfouli's testimony about
the difficulties she and her children have faced during the five years her
husband, Mohammad Mahjoub, has been incarcerated without charge.
Longe was clearly disturbed at the April trial that individuals
came to court prepared to stand up for their rights and the rights of the
detainees with whom they held their solidarity sit-in. Like anyone in
power, he could have acted in a paternal, "if only they understood the
difficulties of my position" manner and dismissed it all as an interesting
sidebar to his normal roster of traffic and pet by-law violations.
But instead, like the power structure he represents, he chose to
lash out angrily both then and again today.
At 3 pm, defendants Romaine and Behrens rose to hear what they were
hoping would be a reasoned, detailed analysis of the submissions they had
made regarding the sit-in, and the necessity and related defences which
were laid before Longe in April.
But before the verdict was delivered there was trouble. After they
were identified by the court, the defendants sat at the defence table so
they could take notes on the verdict.
"You will stand in my court," he ordered Behrens and Romaine.
"I need to sit so I can make notes on your verdict," Behrens explained.
"Not in my court!" Longe responded in that "This is my court and
I'll do as I damn well please, Charter of Rights be damned!" manner.
"Fine, I will walk over here and lean against this bar, so I can
make my notes," Behrens proposed as he moved towards the edge of the
"No, you will stand right there," Longe chided him.
An embarrassed court clerk, perhaps fearing this would devolve even
further, graciously handed Behrens a piece of cardboard to make notes
against while in a standing position.
Turns out there was nothing of note in the JP's so-called decision.
Rather than producing the reasoned, analytical approach to the
submissions and testimony that were presented to him six weeks earlier, he
mumbled like a school kid who hadn't done his homework and was faking his
way through the oral exam.
"Defendants occupied space...refused to leave...no proper defence
presented...guilty as charged..." he stumbled.
He turned to the prosecuting attorney, who had a long lineup of
traffic offences to deal with, and asked for a sentencing recommendation.
She said she would leave it in his hands.
He looked at us and pronounced his verdict.
"$1,000 fines." He was pleased. Putting us in our place. How dare
we come to his court and assert ourselves!
"That's an incredibly severe penalty for such a minor demonstration
for which there was no violence, no one was hurt, it was over in a matter
of minutes," Behrens explained.
"Well, I could have fined you $2,000," Longe beamed.
Obviously someone very much in love with his grandiose power.
"What are your reasons for this huge fine?" Behrens asked.
"I don't have to give you any," Longe replied.
"We were there not for ourselves, but for human rights, for
everyone," Romaine explained.
"That's irrelevant," Longe stated, just as he said the testimony of
Mona Elfouli was irrelevant before he walked out on her in April.
Behrens explained it was remarkable that an offence which didn't
even require a preliminary court summons and which, if the defendants had
simply ignored it, would have resulted in a $75 fine, had suddenly
ballooned into a major amount of cash.
But it made sense. If we had obediently accepted the notion that we
were guilty for our sit-in -- designed to draw attention to human rights
abuses here in Canada and the potential deportation to torture of the
Secret Trial Five -- then that would have been the end of it.
But because we decided to contest the notion that there was
something wrong with our act of necessity, to try and save the lives of
these men, their families, and the very notion of due process itself, we
were to be punished.
It was an act very much in keeping with the nature of what we were
protesting at CSIS. Indeed, when Muslim men refuse to spy for CSIS, they
are thrown in jail for years without charge or bail, and threatened with
deportation to torture.
Obedience is rewarded, disobedience and conscience are punished.
In the end, Behrens explained that in similar cases, individuals
are often either given an absolute discharge or a fine of $100. Romaine
explained that she has no employment but that, even if she did, that was
not the point--why were we being punished for standing up for human rights?
"Irrelevant," came the favourite word of the JP, adding, "Fifty
dollar fine" in the same arbitrary manner in which he had pronounced the
We assured him we would not pay it, and walked out of court to the
thumbs-up and smiles of most of those awaiting the opportunity to contest
speeding and parking tickets.
Last night, as he called from his solitary confinement cell, where
he has spent the past three years and 8 months, Hassan Almrei spoke about
the impending court decision.
"You know of course you are guilty," Hassan explained. "You guys
are guilty of being human, you are guilty of caring for people who spend
years in solitary confinement on secret evidence."
While we could have shared this with the JP, it would perhaps have
been declined -- like everything else that has to do with human rights and
democracy -- as "irrelevant" in his courtroom.
Undeterred, the defendants will continue to campaign to end secret
trials in Canada, and have marked their calendars for the 24 Hours Against
Torture vigil on June 8. Hassan Almrei has a bail hearing scheduled for
June 27 and 28.
For more info: tasc at web.ca or (416) 651-5800, www.homesnotbombs.ca
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