Ottawa, Canada — In an open letter, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) in partnership with the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), Federation of Muslim Women (FMW), Islamic Ahlul Bayt Assembly of Canada, Islamic Circle of North America Canada (ICNA Canada), Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada) and Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), along with an additional 11 organizations, have asked authorities to consider reasonable bail terms and re-examine the use of solitary confinement for the “Toronto 11.”
In the letter the 19 organizations wrote on April 22:
During the week of April 14, 2008, charges against four more of the “Toronto 18” were stayed. Along with the three men who were previously released, the case of the “Toronto 18” has now been whittled down to the “Toronto 11.”
As representatives of Canada’s Muslim communities, we are committed to Canada’s security, while also ensuring that due process and civil liberties are respected. Thus, in consideration of the public knowledge we have of the cases, and the impact the proceedings have had on the accused and their families, we are requesting an end to solitary confinement and that their right to reasonable bail be seriously considered.
Citizens of conscience, including Canada’s Muslims, are deeply concerned about the status of each of the remaining 11 men still facing trial. It appears that our government, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have cast an extremely “wide net” in their quest to catch criminals and terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies. As a direct result, innocent persons continue to be harassed, interrogated, detained, arrested and incarcerated. The reputations of many have been smeared and lives reduced to tatters.
This phenomenon has been exemplified in the cases of Maher Arar and Project Thread. The Arar case, as citizens are aware, resulted in a public inquiry and Mr. Arar’s complete exoneration. In the less well-known Project Thread case, 24 South Asian men were wrongly labeled as terrorists. They had their lives turned upside down. Ultimately, despite the media circus, no terror related or criminal charges were even laid. Most were deported on minor immigration offenses.
It is now clear that the lives of seven more men and boys and their families have been irreparably harmed. Initially assumed to be part of the “Toronto 18” plot, some of these men and boys have, as a result, spent nearly two years of their lives in jail. The majority were held in solitary confinement for 23½ hours a day. They have now been released and charges against them stayed.
Balancing the pursuit of law, order, peace and security with the protection of individual human rights and civil liberties is a difficult task, especially when the balancing process involves individuals who may be unpopular. Are we, as a society, prepared to suspend basic rights, such as freedom of association and the presumption of innocence, in the name of anti-terrorism?
Ten of the initial “Toronto 18” remain incarcerated pending trial. Three men continue to be held in solitary confinement. Extreme isolation, conditions more severe than the majority of Canada ‘s convicted murderers and rapists are subject to, is hardly appropriate for persons who have not been found guilty by our justice system. Perhaps it is time that the use of solitary confinement in the case of the Toronto 11 be re-evaluated, especially given its extensive use in the cases of the seven who were recently released.
Like any other individual who is subject to the operation of the law, each of the remaining accused have the right to be granted reasonable bail terms, as the court deems appropriate. This Charter right should be seriously considered, especially if strong sureties are provided to ensure that bail conditions will be fully respected.
It is in this spirit that we respectfully submit that the rights of the remaining accused be given every consideration and protection under the law. We respectfully request that the use of solitary confinement for the Toronto 11 be re-evaluated. Finally, having regard to all of the circumstances, we respectfully ask that their requests for bail be given the fullest consideration.
Director of Community
Canadian Council on
On behalf of:
Canadian Arab Federation (CAF); Canadian Coalition for Peace and Justice; Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN); Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC); Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA); Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF); DawaNet Canada; Federation of Muslim Women (FMW); Islamic Ahlul Bayt Assembly of Canada; Islamic Circle of North America Canada (ICNA Canada ); Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada ); Islamic Society of Toronto; Muslim Community Council of Ottawa-Gatineau (MCCOG); Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM); Muslim Association of Canada (MAC); Ottawa Muslim Association (OMA); Salaheddin Islamic Centre; South-Western Ontario Muslim Students’ Association; Young Muslims Canada.