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Jaballah falls ill after hunger strike

Brett Popplewell, Canada.com, May 25, 2006

Supporters in New York during a later
hunger strike, in 2007

One of three terror suspects (sic) detained by Canadian immigration officials for nearly five years has developed breathing problems during a hunger strike to protest his living conditions, his supporters said Thursday.

Mahmoud Jaballah, one of the detainees being held on a national security certificate in Kingston, Ont., is in poor health, said his 19-year-old son, Ahmad Jaballah, who spoke with his father by phone Thursday morning.

“This morning they put him under the emergency unit,” he said. “He had trouble breathing for about two hours. His health is just deteriorating.”

The Canadian Border Services Agency declined to comment on Jaballah’s health or the condition of the other detainees, citing privacy issues.

Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei began a hunger strike May 22 at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. (JfJ: in fact, Almrei began on May 13th and the other two on May 23)

They’re demanding proper access to a canteen, better protocol for visits, better food, unrestricted access to phones, and access to outdoor recreation facilities.

Ahmad Jaballah said his father and the other detainees intend to continue their hunger strike until their demands are met.

Matthew Behrens, co-ordinator of Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, a group advocating for better treatment of the detainees, said the conditions at the holding centre make it a “Guantanamo North.”

“The federal government promised that their conditions would be a lot better than they were in the provincial facility where they have been held for between four to six years,” Behrens said. “But it turns out they’re not nearly even as good.”

Lawyer John Norris, who represents the detainees, also said the conditions at the holding centre are poor.

“It’s a nice new place, so superficially it looks quite nice, but it’s completely inadequate for their needs, and the needs of their families,” he said.

The nearest family and friends of the three men live some 260 kilometres away in Toronto, Norris said.

All three detainees are being held on a national security certificate — which allows Ottawa to indefinitely hold foreign nationals who are determined to be security threats — and could face deportation to their homelands, where Behrens said they could be tortured.

Norris said the men are optimistic they might soon be released on bail since terror suspect (sic) Mohamed Harkat, who was being held in the same holding centre, was recently freed on bail.

The case of the detainees will be heard by the Supreme Court in mid-June. (JfJ: presumably a reference to the constitutional challenge to the security certificate legislation which lead to the landmark Charkaoui I decision)


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