Hunger Strikers' hope raised by Stockwell Day's visit to Guantanamo North Facility in Kingston;
Day Refuses Dialogue with Secret Trial Detainees During Tour of Kingston Immigration Holding Centre
JANUARY 26, 2006 -- Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Stockwell Day made a brief surprise appearance at Canada's Guantanamo North (the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, KIHC) late yesterday afternoon. The Minister's handling of the two-month hunger strike at the prison has met with significant anger across Canada and internationally in recent weeks.
According to detainees Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, and Hassan Almrei, the three men were suddenly ordered into their cells and the doors double-locked, with no explanation. As each peered out of the tiny window in his cell door, he saw Stockwell Day briefly looking at him. Each of the prisoners requested to speak with Mr. Day, but Day declined dialogue.
"It is worrisome that Mr. Day may only be getting one side of the story. He did not speak with the men, he has not contacted their lawyers, he has not responded to numerous requests to meet with the detainees' families and support campaign," says Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada.
Nevertheless, Day's appearance was taken as a sign of hope by the three detainees, who have been on a liquids-only hunger strike for 63 days, in the case of Mohammad Mahjoub, and 52 days, in the case of Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei. After exhausting all other recourse, the three felt forced to take this drastic step simply to gain minor improvements in conditions - amounting to being treated with dignity - at the new $3.2 million dollar facility. To the concern of human rights organizations in Canada and internationally, they have been held for as long as 6.5 years without charge on secret suspicions neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see. All have been fighting deportation to torture.
"The last four weeks have seen an outpouring of public support for the detainees: coast-to-coast demonstrations, as well as phoning, faxing, and letter-writing to Mr. Day and Immigration Minister Diane Finley, urging negotiation to end this crisis," explained Behrens. Many organizations and individuals across Canada are joining in the call to close the "Guantanamo North" prison, abolish the abusive security certificate regime, free those imprisoned under this measure or provide them with a fair and open trial, and end the deplorable policy of deporting people to torture.
Mr. Day's visit comes less than 48 hours after a group of almost 70 health workers and organizations, including the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, issued a letter expressing their very grave concern that the prison was failing to provide medical monitoring of the hunger strike, and calling on Day to take immediate action to resolve the hunger strike (see text of letter http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/health.htm).
"Mr. Stockwell Day would not be here without all of your support of us," Mahmoud Jaballah said via telephone, wishing to thank the Canadian people. "Now we hope they can actually make some improvement in the conditions," he added, which now include severe problems with heat distribution in the unit during a cold weather alert, continued denial of medical care, and a punitive atmosphere of incessant humiliation. (The hunger strikers' demands are detailed in an open letter they addressed to the People of Canada on 8 January 2007, which can be found at http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/openletter.htm.)
For more information, contact the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, (416) 651-5800, email@example.com
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