G20 Trial Update: Jury Is Selected; Crown Excludes Blacks And Students (Montreal)

[NOTE: If you live in the Montreal-area, your support in court at the
trial of Jonathan, Christina and Jaggi is much appreciated. A strong
courtroom presence is essential, especially in front of a jury. The trial
is taking place from Tuesday, April 8 for three weeks, at the Palais de
Justice - near metros Champ de Mars or Place d.Armes, at Notre-Dame and
St-Laurent - in courtroom 3,11 between 9:30am to 4:30pm. Please come
support Jonathan, Christina and Jaggi who are facing prison time as a
result of the police targeting of political protesters.]

MONTREAL, APRIL 7, 2003 -- The G-20 "riot" trial began today at Montreal's
Palais de Justice, with the selection of a 9-woman, 3-man jury to judge
activists and organizers Jonathan Aspireault-Masse, Christina Xydous and
Jaggi Singh on the charge of "participating in a riot". The charges relate
a demonstration of about 1000 in front of Montreal's Sheraton Hotel
against the G-20, IMF and World Bank that occurred on October 23, 2000,
more than two years ago.

The G20 trial marks one of the first times in recent memory, in Montreal,
that political protesters will have their charges decided in front of a
jury. [At present, three members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
(OCAP) are also facing similar charges, as well as more serious charges,
in front of a jury in Toronto.]

The jury pool of more than 200 people filled the largest courtroom at the
Palais de Justice. The defendants were able to pose specific questions to
the jury to determine bias; the questions were: "Do you have any prejudice
against anti-globalization protesters or demonstrations?" and "Do you
work, or have you ever worked, in a managerial capacity, for the World
Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the
G-20 or any other related institution or organizations".

Several potential jurors volunteered openly that they were in favor of
protesters. One middle-aged woman stated that she was involved in protests
in the 1970s, while another man said, "I haven't worked for the IMF, and I
don't ever want to work for the IMF!. Unfortunately, both persons will not
be serving on the jury, although they did wish the defendants good luck in
front of other potential jurors. Other potential jurors openly indicated
bias against protesters and were also excluded.

In the end, a jury of 9 women and 3 men was chosen, but not before the
Crown was able to exclude, as permitted in law, several potential jurors
(the defence also has the same right). However, the crown systematically
excluded several young students, 2 CEGEP teachers and one writer, all of
whom stated confidently they could judge the case without bias. Also, the
crown excluded two young black men -- one who is a college student, the
other who works in a fast-food restaurant. On the exclusion of the second
young black man, and noting that all jurors selected to that point had
been white, defendant Jaggi Singh, who is representing himself, stood up
to object, stating, "I want a jury that represents the diversity of
Montreal, not an all-white jury." In the end, only one juror is a visible
minority.

The jurors' occupations are as follows: manager, flight attendant,
computer technician, day-care worker, contract administrator, mature
student, secretary, housewife, accounts officer, aircraft mechanic, paint
company manager and production manager's assistant.

The trial will begin with the Crown's arguments on Tuesday morning (April
in courtroom 3,11 of the Palais de Justice in Montreal (corner of Notre
Dame and St-Laurent, near metros Champ de Mars and Place d'Armes). The
trial is expected to last for at least 3 weeks. For more information,
e-mail montreal@tao.ca.