Jaggi Singh's Bail Denied - Political Detention
Jaggi Singh's Bail Denied - Political Detention
by ckln 88.1 fm 12:48pm Thu Apr 26 '01
address: Toronto (Canada), on location in Quebec firstname.lastname@example.org
Bail was denied this morning to Jaggi Singh, activist with the Anti-Capitalist Convergence in Montreal. Outraged activists and observers say his detention is politically motivated.
a26: Quebec City
Jaggi Singh denied bail - political detention
Today at the Palais de Justice, Judge Yvon Mercier denied bail to Jaggi Singh, a well-known spokesperson for the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes, or CLAC). Organizers with the CLAC and their Quebec City affiliate, the Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee (Comite d'Accueil de Sommet des Ameriques -- CASA), called the detention politically-motivated and evidence that the right to protest is under attack by authorities. They referred to irregularities in the court procedure, the abusive treatment of prisoners, and to mistakes and dishonesty in the judge's ruling. Jaggi is charged with participating in a riot, possession of a weapon, and violating bail conditions on a previous charges. Bail conditions For his decision, Mercier relied heavily on the fact that Jaggi was already out on bail, having been arrested on May 1, 2000, at an anti-poverty demonstration in the Montreal neighbourhood of Westmount. Around 100 people were arrested that day, and charged with unlawful assembly. At that time, Jaggi was released on condition that he not participate in any demonstration on private property without consent of the owner, and that he leave any demonstration on public property should it stop being "peaceful and lawful". During the hearing yesterday, Jaggi contended that those conditions were meant to apply only to the city of Westmount. He said that he had made that oral agreement with the Judge and the Crown in the city court of Westmount. The bail papers did not reflect that understanding, but Jaggi never actually signed the bail papers. In fact, yesterday Jaggi spoke personally with the Crown, who had reaffirmed that the conditions were limited to Westmount. The Crown also wished him best wishes for his release.
Selective interpretation of evidence In terms of the evidence against him in Quebec City, Mercier based his decision almost entirely on the testimony of Officer Francois Collin, who testified yesterday at the hearing. Collin had testified that he saw Jaggi inciting the CLAC/CASA demonstration to approach the perimeter and take down the fence. He said that he had witnessed Jaggi giving orders to people to bring a catapult up to the fence. He also said that the catapult had launched molotov cocktails. Jaggi's "weapons" charge refers to his supposed possession of this catapult. Judy Rebick, former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and a well-known media personality on the left, came to Quebec City yesterday to testify at the hearing. She had arranged funding for the catapult, which she described as a theatrical device mocking the perimeter wall and the seige mentality of the Summit authorities and the police. In fact, the catapult was designed to launch stuffed animals.
She also testified that Jaggi had nothing to do with the catapult and was not in any position to order its operators to do anything. When asked what she saw Jaggi doing at the demonstration, she answered that she saw him only twice. First, she saw him at Laval University, smiling and talking to people. Later she saw him on rue Rene Levesque, after protestors first breached the perimeter fence. He was more than 500 away from the fence and, with a megaphone, was urging people to calm down and to go to the street party down on rue St-Jean. Incredibly, today Mercier claimed she had testified that Jaggi was inciting people to attack the fence. Interestingly, another witness came to court today to watch the proceedings. A retired professor from Montreal, the man had observed Jaggi on rue Rene Levesque, and agreed that Jaggi had never incited any kind of attack on the perimeter. Most mainstream media turned off their cameras and put away their microphones when the man began to describe what he had seen. Jaggi was arrested later in the afternoon by several cops dressed as demonstrators. He had left rue Rene Levesque and withdrawn to the "Green Zone" street party on rue St-Jean. Jaggi's testimony, which concluded this morning, focused on his role as an educator. He talked of the many conferences he has organized, the presentations he has made, the articles he has written. While a staunch defender of a diversity of tactics, he described his own work as strictly "non-violent".
About 70 people filled the courtroom at 11:30am when the judge made his ruling. The judge began by saying that he would tolerate no noise from the audience. The 8-10 security guards in the room were continually ordering people to take their hands of adjoining seats and to be quiet. Two or three people were ejected over the course of the hearing. Officers from the Surete de Quebec and the Ministry of Security also came in to look over the crowd. The politicized nature of the courtroom was graphically illustrated yesterday when court security ordered one man to take off a t-shirt sporting an anarchist slogan. After the hearing was read, there was shouting and chanting in the courtroom, but it didn't last long. Most people were too upset; some were in tears. A quiet and angry tension settled in as organizers began making calls and talking to media. They expect that sympathetic groups will be organizing solidarity demonstrations within the next few days, to assert the right to political protest.