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(en) Canada, Ottawa/Montreal, No One is Illegal Montreal - A Call for Courtroom Solidarity and Support

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 31 May 2004 11:22:20 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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The Trial of Non-Status Algerians and Supporters Arrested in
Immigration Minister's Office Begins Tuesday, June 1st, 2004
On May 29th 2003, 10 non-status Algerians and 2 supporters were brutally
arrested in then-Immigration Minister Denis Coderre's Ottawa office. They
were charged with "mischief over $5,000". Their trial will begin in
Ottawa on June 1st, 2004, and the stakes are high for those defendants who
are still not regularized and risk being deported to Algeria. They are
calling for your support and solidarity.
This email includes:
-- A brief history of the Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians' struggle
-- The story of the arrest on May 29th
-- Information about the upcoming trial
-- Ways you can support the defendants


The Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians has been organizing against
the deportation of non-status Algerians for almost three years. Their
struggle intensified in April 2002, when then-Immigration Minister Denis
Coderre lifted the moratorium on deportations to Algeria, leaving over
1000 non-status Algerians facing removal to a country still torn by civil
conflict and brutal violence.

In October 2002, their dynamic struggle won a partial victory. After
months of public meetings, petitions, demonstrations, meetings with
immigration bureaucrats -- and after the Bourouisa family sought sanctuary
in a Montreal Church -- Immigration Canada and Immigration Quebec
announced the implementation of a special Joint Procedure for the
regularization of some non-status Algerians. However, numerous
individuals are excluded from that regularization procedure, and so the
Action Committee has continued to fight for justice.

On May 29, 2003, 10 non-status Algerians and 2 supporters from the No One
Is Illegal Campaign of Montreal, Sarita Ahooja and Andr?a Schmidt, entered
the waiting room of Coderre's Ottawa office. They were delivering a letter
demanding a face-to-face meeting with the Minister and a just solution for
individuals facing deportation to Algeria because they are excluded from
the regularization process put into place by Canada and Quebec
Immigration. Since Coderre had repeatedly refused to meet or dialogue with
members of the Action Committee, those delivering the letter decided to
remain in the waiting room until he committed to the meeting.


The police response to the action was brutal. At approximately 10:30 PM,
members of the Ottawa Police Services tactical squad, in coordination with
the RCMP, charged the people occupying the waiting room. After forcing
them to the ground, the police beat and Tasered many of the men on their
necks, backs, torsos and genitals. One man was bashed in the head with
the butt of a Taser gun, leaving a large and bloody gash on his forehead.
Another man's tooth was broken when he was punched in the face by a police
officer. Several men received Taser burns on the backs of their neck,
backs and arms. These wounds have resulted in permanent scarring. The 12
individuals were arrested, charged with mischief over $5,000, and released
from jail the next day.


Almost one year to the day after the police attacked the unarmed
protesters peacefully waiting in the immigration minister's waiting room,
the people they brutalized will be tried summarily in Ottawa court. The
trial will open on Tuesday, June 1st, 2004 at the Elgin Street Courthouse
in Ottawa. It is scheduled for the first, second and fourth weeks of June.


In fact, when the trial opens, only 10 of the 12 accused will be able to
be present. Immigration Canada deported one man to Algerian last fall, and
his ability to return to Canada to be reunited with his wife depends on
the results of the trial. A second defendant, Mohamed Cherfi, was deported
to the United States on March 5th 2004 after having sought sanctuary in a
Quebec City church. Mohamed was refused status in Canada for being a
committed and articulate leader of the non-status Algerians' movement over
the past two years. His involvement in the protest on May 29th was cited
by several Immigration officials as the reason his application for landed
status in Quebec was rejected. Mohamed is currently incarcerated in a New
York State prison as he awaits the decision on his asylum claim in the US
to be rendered at the end of June. If his claim is denied, as is the case
with 95 % of asylum claims made in the US, he will be deported to Algeria
where he faces great danger in light of his outspoken criticism of the
Algerian government and his struggle for justice for all non-status
Algerians in Canada.


Indeed, all the non-status defendants' ability to remain in Canada where
they have built their lives and struggled courageously for status depends
on the outcome of this trial. They need YOUR support to win a victory
that will not only remove one obstacle to gaining status but also make it
clear to the Ottawa Police, the RCMP and Immigration Canada that the
racist and brutal attack on non-status people demanding justice was the
only criminal act that took place in Coderre's office on May 29th 2003.
Here are ways you can demonstrate your solidarity and help the defendants

==> 1) Pack the Court Room: A full courtroom shows the judge that the
defendants have widespread community support. Your presence will be
greatly appreciated whenever you can make it, whether for an hour or for a
full day. But a full courtroom is particularly crucial during the first
week of the trial, that is from Tuesday-Friday June 1st-4th, 2004; the
days on which the defence will present its arguments (still to be
determined but likely during the second week of June) will also be
important courtroom solidarity days.

The Elgin Street Court House is located at 161 Elgin Street, Ottawa,

==> 2) Provide Transportation to Ottawa: If you are driving from Montreal
to Ottawa to attend court and you have extra space in your vehicle to
offer other people wanting to travel to Ottawa for courtroom solidarity,
please let us know so we can coordinate rides. You can email
noii-montreal@resist.ca or call (514) 859-9023. Similarly, if you want to
attend court in Ottawa but you need a ride, don't hesitate to get in touch
to find out if there are any empty seats available. And if you are part of
a collective or organization that is interested in sending a bus to Ottawa
for one of the trial days, please let us know as soon as possible!

==> 3) Financial Support: Over and above the cost of lawyers' fees, we
are trying to raise funds to cover the cost of trial materials,
transportation of the defendants and the legal team to and from Ottawa,
and other costs incurred by a trial that will potentially be three weeks
long. If you are able to donate money to help cover these costs, please
make cheques out to the Libertas Legal Collective and mark "May 29th
trial" in the memo field.

Please mail cheques to:

Libertas Legal Collective
C/o QPIRG Concordia
1420 Sherbrooke Street West, Suite 404
Montreal, Quebec
H3G 1K5

[If you are sending a cheque, please let us know by e-mail or by phone:
noii-montreal@resist.ca or 514-859-9023.]

==> 4) Keep Informed: The trial support team will be sending out updates
about the proceedings. If you would like to make sure you receive these
updates, including notices of important courtroom solidarity day, please
email noii-montreal@resist.ca. (Make sure to write "May 29th Trial" in the
subject line.)

Thank you in advance for your support. We'll see you in court.

In solidarity and struggle,
-- The May 29th Trial Support Team


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