Letter From Montreal's Equivalent To Ahmed Zaoui
Adil Charkaoui, a father of two and a student of French literature, has spent almost 18 months in a Montreal prison. He has been neither convicted nor even charged with any crime. Using a « security certificate », the Canadian government has the power to imprison refugees and permanent residents without charge, under secret evidence.
Deprived of his liberty, of his right to be presumed innocent, and of a fair trial, Charkaoui, like the other four Muslim men held under certificates, faces deportation to his country of origin, even though there is a serious risk that he will be tortured upon his return.
In his first open letter to the public from prison, Charkaoui draws on Emile Zola’s famous letter, J’Accuse, written in 1898 about “the Dreyfuss affair.” Dreyfuss, a Jew, was a ready scapegoat for political interests in the deeply anti-semitic climate of late 19th century France.
Dreyfuss was tried under a secret court martial. Making the parallels with his own case, Charkaoui elaborates on two recent incidents: his fellow prisoners asking him if he is related to Al Zarqawi of the Iraqi resistance in Fallujah; and the remark made by the judge presiding over a recent hearing of his case, who said that a simple statement of innocence by Charkaoui would be enough to see him freed.
A NEW DREFUSS AFFAIR IN CANADA Crime: Arab and Muslim after September 11th
First off, a clarification: my name is Charkaoui, not Zarkaoui. “Ch” and “z” are of course both palatal fricatives; however, the former is voiceless whereas the latter is voiced. This word of caution is addressed to all suffering from paranoia, if not to say simple incompetence, both here and overseas.
He, according to rumours, directs the Iraqi resistance in Falluja and is the brain behind a plethora of attacks across the globe. I, on the other hand, have, to date, directed no more than a 2 for 1 pizzeria and the only “attacks” in which I have dabbled in the past were on the reserve of certain uptight women.
He, according to the unbridled imagination of the embedded media, has instigated repeated explosions; the only “bomb” to which I wish to contribute is demographic! My wife and I ardently hope to at least double the number of children that we already have.
He, again according to Uncle Sam, spends his days mixing powder and dynamite. I am more into mixing styles; literary, of course!
Desperately seeking justice
To the proposal of the Honourable Judge S. Noel (that I should declare that I am not guilty in exchange for unconditional liberty), I respond as follows: for seventeen months, I have shouted to the four winds, to all who would hear, that I am innocent of all the charges made by CSIS, that I have never been and that I am not a member of Al Qaeda, and that I reject all forms of terrorism – including state terrorism.
And for the gazillionth time, I challenge CSIS to provide evidence to corroborate its allegations, in the context of a just and fair trial, according to the rules of international law.
I demand neither liberty nor protection but simply to be judged according to the same legal standards that apply to the worst of pedophiles and serial killers.
I demand: - To be presumed innocent - The constitutional right to see the so-called secret evidence - The constitutional right to cross-examine alleged informants - The right to appeal
I denounce: - Secret trials - Racial profiling - Ex-parte and in camera sessions - Drift towards the arbitrary - The instrumentalisation of fear - The blurring of the political and the juridical
Finally, I accuse CSIS of targeting Arab and Muslim communities (by means of harassment, intimidation) after 11 September, of sub-contracting torture to countries like Syria and Jordan (e.g. torture by rendition in the Arar affair).
I accuse the former Ministers Denis Coderre and Wayne Easter of having signed a security certificate against me, thereby depriving me of all my civil rights, before CSIS’s allegations have been proven in an independent court.
I accuse the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of having obtained on CSIS’s behalf diplomatic assurances in order to facilitate my deportation to what the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described as a serious risk of death, torture and cruel and unusual punishment.
I accuse the Border Services Agency, which falls under the new Ministry of Public Safety, of recommending deportation to countries which practice torture and use the death penalty.