Six more men arrested as terror suspects, set free by Canadian courts
Six more Pakistani and Indian students arrested under suspicion of having
links to terror groups, were set free yesterday. This comes after a
concerted effort by the Muslim Canadian Congress a civil rights coalition,
Operation Threadbare; almost all non-Muslim Canadians, and of course the
When all is said and done, a huge question will always hang. How did
Canada's Muslim leadership react when a great injustice was committed? The
head of a self-styled Canada-wide Muslim group refused to help, saying it
couldn't because it was too busy organizing a dinner reception. When pressed
to help the arrested Muslim students, Dr. Muhammad Elmasry countered by
suggesting we buy a few tickets to his gala dinner.
He didn't stop there. While the Muslim Canadian Congress was busy organizing
a legal and activist defense for the students, he disrupted our efforts by
sending a legal notice to the MCC threatening court action. But what else
would you expect from people with inflated egos and deflated pride.
My hero today is a member of Operation Threadbare who stood up in court and
offered to act as a surety and pay bail when the adjudicator offered to
release Fahim Kayani, one of the students who didn't have either a lawyer or
a guarantor. Needless to point out, Simon was neither Muslim, nor Pakistani
yet he helped the distraught Fahim Kayani who wept like a child during the
Sep. 26, 2003. 01:00 AM
Project Thread `coming undone'
Six more men cleared as threats: Student pilot weeps with relief
By JOSEPH HALL
The Toronto Star
The federal immigration department's Project Thread terror probe appeared to
be unravelling completely yesterday as security concerns were dropped
against six more Muslim suspects - including a student pilot who was
allegedly scouting out the Pickering nuclear plant.
An immigration tribunal released the pilot, Anwar-Ur-Rehman Mohammed, 31, on
$25,000 bail after ministry counsel Stephanie MacKay announced that security
allegations had been dropped against the native of Hyderabad, India.
Mohammed, who attended the 30-day detention hearing via a video linkup from
jail, seemed to bend over and pray as tribunal head Robert Murrant
considered his release for about 10 minutes. He burst into tears after he
was told he'd go free.
His case is at least the ninth where security concerns have been dropped
from the file.
Ten others have been taken out of the public forum, presumably because they
have now become private, refugee-claim matters.
But a lawyer for nine of the 21 suspects caught up in the mid-August
terrorism dragnet - including some of the refugee claimants - says national
security concerns are no longer an element in any of the Project Thread
"The whole thing is coming undone," said lawyer Tariq Shah. "They're
dropping the security concerns from all of the men."
Immigration Minister Denis Coderre told reporters in Ottawa yesterday he
would not comment on Mohammed's case, even though he represented a key link
in the faltering Thread probe.
"This is a case where I'm not going to intervene because there's already a
process," Coderre said. "But every time that we have enough ground to act,
we're doing (that) in consequence. ... I feel that my officials did the
right thing by doing what they've done and we'll let the inquiry go
Immigration department spokesperson Giovanna Gatti would not say yesterday
how many of the Project Thread suspects have had security-threat allegations
dropped from their files, but said the cases are ongoing. Of those heard
publicly so far, investigations have "alleviated" any security concerns,
But she said the department was not in error bringing the original security
charges. "We had reasonable suspicion, (and) whenever you have reasonable
suspicion it is our duty to investigate."
Mohammed was one of three probe suspects told they would be released
yesterday. Fahim Kayani was ordered released on a $2,000 performance bond,
while Jahan Sawnhey was let go on a $5,000 cash bond. A pharmacist whose
wife and child remain in India, Mohammed was a key suspect in the Thread
probe, with his Pickering overflights and incomplete pilot training
conjuring up comparisons to 9/11 terrorist plotters.
Federal officials are now relying on far more commonplace immigration
violations to prosecute the probe suspects, 20 of them Pakistanis and all
Mohammed arrived in Canada three years ago in hopes, he said, of obtaining a
commercial pilot's licence. His flight path on several occasions,
investigators said, took him over the Pickering plant. But experts told the
Star that small planes regularly fly over the lakeside nuclear plant and
that Mohammed's routes were nothing unusual.
Mohammed has been in protective custody at the maximum-security Maplehurst
Correctional Centre in Milton for 43 days and will probably be released
today, his lawyer said.
Muslim groups and opposition parties in Ottawa were quick yesterday to call
on the federal government to launch an inquiry into the case, saying that it
contained egregious elements of racial profiling, poor investigational
protocols and human rights violations.
"There is some serious explaining to do and a committee of Parliament should
be taking this up," said federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, who characterized
the round-ups as the result of faulty federal security legislation brought
in after 9/11.
"If we don't nip this kind of activity in the bud, it simply swoops people
up off the street with no good reason, leaves them with a tarnished
reputation, traumatized and with major personal and family setbacks." He
warned that such sweeps could alienate the entire Muslim community.
Canadian Alliance immigration critic Diane Ablonczy said the government's
"bull in a china shop" tactics could undermine attempts to fight terrorism,
making it "less likely ... that they would be pro-active in other cases."
Tarek Fatah, of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said he sees Project Thread as
"a very serious error" made in trying to placate U.S. security officials. He
said any inquiry should look into the role the RCMP played in the probe,
which distanced itself from the security allegations only on Aug. 27.