BY JOHN STEELE
TORONTO - "We are here to celebrate a victory in the fight to defend democratic rights," Young Socialist leader Nojan Emad told participants at the Militant Labor Forum in Montreal April 30. "The RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] thought they could break me or buy me and they failed."
Ten days earlier plainclothes cops from the National Security Investigations Section of the RCMP barged into the Pathfinder bookstore in Toronto, pushed and shoved bookstore staffers, and forcibly dragged Emad into an unmarked van. They parked the van on a side street and interrogated Emad about his political views and activity for more than an hour.
Emad, 19, who is a Canadian citizen of Iranian descent, was never charged with any offense and never placed under arrest. Using the pretext of the April 19 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the cops claimed they had the right to interrogate him in the interests of "national security." He was released only after lawyer Bob Kellerman contacted Emad by cellular phone in the police van.
The political police were most interested in Emad's activities in support of Cuba's socialist revolution. In January, Emad spent two weeks in Cuba with 70 other young people from Canada, the United States, and other countries.
Emad is currently helping to build a tour for two Cuban youth leaders across Canada next October. He is also publicizing a "Cuba Lives" youth festival that will take place in Havana August 1-7.
Alexandre Popovic, an activist in the coalition against Human Life International (HLI), came to the forum to express his solidarity with Emad. HLI is a right-wing and antiabortion political organization. Popovic and Emad participated in a 2,500-strong demonstration April 18 outside the HLI convention in Montreal. During the protest Popovic and others were arrested by the cops.
Popovic was unable to address the Montreal forum because he was released from prison on condition he not attend demonstrations or speak publicly.
"Because of the wide publicity and broad support I have received the RCMP has been silent. They can't justify what they did to me. We've pushed them back and strengthened the fight to defend our rights," said Emad.
"They couldn't intimidate me and other defenders of democratic rights," he said. "Supporters of the Pathfinder bookstore, representatives of organizations like the Canadian Arab Federation, Cuba solidarity organizations, and others held a press conference two days after the RCMP raid. So the news got out fast in newspapers, on radio, and through the Internet across the country and around the world."
Students, unionists, and others in cities across Canada and the United States, and from as far away as New Zealand and Australia, sent messages of protest to the RCMP and Canadian solicitor general Herbert Gray.
"I am very concerned that the RCMP would violate the basic legal rights of Nojan Emad in this way," said New Democratic Party member of Parliament Svend Robinson in his message.
"This also appears to be further evidence that Canadian authorities, including CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] and the RCMP, are harassing individuals who have made legitimate working visits to Cuba," said Robinson. He urged an investigation of the cops.
"We must protest these violations," wrote Lisett Barsallo and Andrew Adler of the Committee for Equality for Immigrants and New Canadians in Vancouver.
Stuart Russell, a lecturer in law at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, condemned the attack as "a case of politically motivated harassment."
Support was also expressed by callers to the Pathfinder bookstore following a story about the RCMP attack aired on radio CIUT from the University of Toronto. One person came by the bookstore to express his solidarity. Another came in to buy a book as a protest against the RCMP. A third person called to say she had phoned the RCMP to protest.
In addition to mass circulation dailies, stories and
editorials on the RCMP attack appeared in student papers, the
Toronto-based Spanish-language weekly El Popular, and
Shahrvand, a Farsi-language weekly.
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