It's Not Too Late: Bring Mohamed Home!

Quebec City, March 6 2004 - The Solidarity Committee for Mohamed Cherfi
and Pastor Gerald Dore of the Saint-Pierre United Church denounce the
summary arrest of Mohamed Cherfi, Algerian refugee. Mohamed Cherfi had
been in sanctuary at Saint-Pierre United Church since February 10 in order
to avoid deportation to Algeria where he fears for his life.

This arrest breaks a longstanding secular tradition of right to sanctuary,
the first time such an outrage has occurred in Canada.

"The United Church, on whose ground Mohamed Cherfi had taken refuge,
considers it a moral duty to offer asylum to any person whose life is
endanger if the State does not fulfil its responsibilities," said Gerald
Dore. The event is all the more significant considering that only a
political decision could have prompted such an intervention.

This is an undeniable case of miscarriage of justice on the part of the
authorities of Quebec and Canada. A warrant for arrest was emitted by the
Municial court of Montreal - under the absurd pretext that in taking
sanctuary, Cherfi changed his address without informing the authorities -
and then immediately withdrawn upon Cherfi's arrest. All this in order to
illegally arrest and detain Cherfi without ever allowing him his right to
defend himself in a court of law. What seems at first glance to be an
ordinary police operation, seems upon further examination to be an abuse
of the rule of law, orchestrated by high-level officials in order to
silence a strong defender of human rights. This is the gravest (though not
the first) in a series of arbitrary and questionable practices in the case
of Mohamed Cherfi, practices which are not worthy of a state committed to
democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. All this
against a person whose only crime is to have defended justice publicly and
courageously.

"He thought he had found a country where freedom of _expression, of
association and of assembly were respected, unlike his country of origin
Algeria," said Louise Boivin, Cherfi's partner. What is now at issue is to
ensure that the government authorities will respect the most fundamental
rights and freedoms of a democratic society.

The ministers concerned still have the power to reverse their decision and
accord to Mohamed Cherfi his fundamental rights, as upheld in the
international conventions to which Canada is a signatory. We call on
Michelle Courchesne, who is Quebec's Minister for Citizen Relations and
Immigration and who has spent the past months consulting with the public
to determine the positions of her government in matters of immigration.
What message do we send to immigrants with procedures like this?

We call on the federal authorities to ensure a rapid return of Mohamed
Cherfi to Canada, on the basis of the most obvious humanitarian
considerations. Ministers Judy Sgro (Immigration) and Anne McLellan
(Public Safety), Minister Denis Coderre (Privy Council Minister who
ensures the coordination between these two departments) and Prime Minister
Paul Martin, have the power to intervene with American officials and allow
Mohamed to return home to Canada. These officials have the power and the
duty to intervene.

-30-

Solidarity Committee for Mohamed Cherfi
(418) 262-0144
solimo2004 (at) yahoo.fr
http://www.mohamed.levillage.org