Supporters bring life-size jail cell to Queen's Park
TORONTO, Sept. 24 /CNW/ - The Presumption of Innocence Project, a civil
liberties group, held a media conference at Queen's Park today to challenge
the conditions of detention for three men who are part of the so-called
"Toronto 18" -- a group of Muslim men and boys who were arrested in June 2006
and accused of terror-related activity.
Fahim Ahmad, Zakaria Amara and Mohammed Dirie have now been held in
solitary confinement for 845 days. Prisoner rights advocates argue that 30
days is the maximum length of time anyone should ever be held in solitary
confinement, after which serious mental health risks develop. The men are
currently held in the Don Jail in Toronto.
"These men have the right to be presumed innocent, and held in the same
conditions as any other prisoner," said Chantal Sundaram, a spokesperson for
the Presumption of Innocence Project. "We're here to ask Premier Dalton
McGuinty if he thinks these appalling conditions are acceptable in Ontario-run
The media conference featured a life-size replica of the jail cell in
which each of the men is currently held.
The men remain inside their cells - which roughly measure 8 feet by 6
feet by 10 feet - for 23 hours and forty minutes every day. They are allowed
20 minutes outside their cell to shower. In 2008, they have been allowed
access to the yard fewer than five times; the last time was April 2. They all
suffer from vitamin D deficiency, and have flaking skin due to lack of
sunlight. Ahmad had to wait 42 days before a dentist treated a toothache;
Amara waited more than a month. The men - all Muslims - have recently been fed
pork instead of halal meat.
"The policies of detainment without trial must be laid at the feet of
Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But the responsibility for the incarceration of
inmates lies with Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Correctional
Services Rick Bartolucci," said Peter Leibovitch, with the District 6 Human
Rights Committee of the United Steelworkers. "We are here today to ensure that
not only Premier McGuinty hears these concerns, but so too will the voters of
this country as they consider their ballot in the federal election."
The Presumption of Innocence Project is a broad-based coalition that
supports and defends civil liberties, the right to a fair trial and the
presumption of innocence.
For further information:
For further information: James Clark, spokesperson, (416) 795-5863
(cellular); Chantal Sundaram, spokesperson, (647) 223-3902 (cellular); Peter
Leibovitch, Human Rights Committee of the United Steelworkers,