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Project Threadbare Members Attempt To Transfer Detainees After Threats, Intimidation, Abuse

Govind Rao and Frank Saptel visited the Celebrity Inn on Sunday, October 12 and then again on Monday October 13 to try and arrange the transfers. Both attempts were unsuccessful. Sunday's attempt failed because there were no immigration officers present and today's effort met with an uncooperative official.

"I can understand yesterday, because there were no officials there, but the total lack of cooperation on the part of the official, Mr. Asher (who declined to give his first name) is just ludicrous," said Rao. "We were polite, but just met with a stone wall," he said.

"We simply wanted to get the forms or whatever paperwork was required so we could get them transferred as soon as possible," said Saptel, "and all he could say was that he was busy. Try telling that to people who've been stuck in a maximum security prison for two months!"

The detainees are still being held at the Maplehurst Detention Centre even though all charges of terrorism against them have been dropped. Despite the government having, in effect, admitted their error, the immigration department has not transferred the 10 remaining detainees to The Celebrity Inn on Airport road where other immigration cases are routinely detained.

The move to have them transferred gained urgency after six Project Threadbare members visited the Maplehurst facility to meet the detainees. "One after the other they told us of threats of violence," said Rao. "Some have been beaten up, others are threatened with being knifed, and the rest are verbally threatened and abused. Some of the men were near tears while telling us their stories. If anything more happens to these men in Maplehurst, the government will have blood on its hands."

Guards at Maplehurst regularly waken the detainees with jibes of "Hey, Wake up Taliban" and "Wake up Al-Qaeda". One of the men, married on July 10, 2003, has already received a request for annulment from his wife. The two have not spoken since his arrest in August. The others fear for their safety if they are returned to Pakistan, thanks to the false charges of terrorism levelled by the Canadian government.

We're going to be back there tomorrow and the day after, and every day after that until they get transferred or released," said Rao. We won't let minor bureaucrats let harm come to any of these men. The Canadian government has a lot to answer for," he said. "The government has falsely labelled these men terrorists which has resulted in the violence and threats they are living under right now at the hands of the general prison population."

A close family member of one of the detainees said that the Superintendent at Maplehurst Correctional Centre has not acted on four complaints from the detainees, even though they were made more than a week ago. Most recently, on October 11, nine detainees filed a report outlining the many concerns they had for their safety, and the same day another seven inmates joined with them to file a report that drew attention to the harassment and threats made on their lives. She said, "I have made numerous attempts to have my nephew transferred and the response I've gotten from the GTA Enforcement Board is that these men 'are still under investigation'. But what is it that they are under investigation for when the only thing in their files are immigration charges?"

Project Threadbare is a Toronto-wide coalition that came together in response to the arrest and detention on twenty Pakistani men and one south Indian man in August 2003. Project Threadbare refers to the RCMP investigation called 'Project Thread' which, although it has produced no clear evidence of any wrongdoing by any of the men, is the basis on which they have all been held.

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CONTACTS:
Govind Rao (416) 801-2923 cell
Frank Saptel (416) 579-0481 cell
project_threadbare@yahoo.com

Note: Punching Out (NEFAC-Toronto) is a member of the Project Threadbare Coalition.