Thursday, August 5, 2010

Civil liberties group wonders why G20 protester not granted bail

By JENNY YUEN, Toronto Sun
Six weeks behind bars and counting.
Erik Lankin, the 23-year-old Kitchener First Nations activist and the last of 17 people charged with serious crimes during the G20 weekend, is still stuck at Maplehurst detention centre in Milton after being arrested on July 24 on conspiracy charges and denied bail last month, his supporters say.
But that’s basically all they’re saying.
“I’m not giving any comment,” Lankin’s fiancee Niki Thorne, whose home was raided by police during the G20, said Wednesday. “The lawyer has asked that people close to Erik not speak to the media for now.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is worried that because of stringent court-imposed conditions and publication bans that prisoners are being treated unfairly. This week the association wrote to the Chief Justice of Canada and the head of Ontario’s justices of the peace for more transparency during the court process.
“The law is quite clear on why and when there should be a publication ban and you always have to balance the right of the public to information versus the interest of justice, whether it’s privacy interests of the offenders or the inability of a fair this case it seems that the balancing was done quickly and we’re not sure if the same test was applied,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the CCLA.
“They have to be treated no more harshly than any other defender in the same circumstance. For vandalism, to be held for six weeks and bail denied raises some concerns.”
Ministry of the Attorney General spokesman Jenn Bell said the issue of Lankin’s bail was determined by the justice of the peace who presided at his bail hearing.
His next scheduled court date is Aug. 23 at 11:30 a.m. at Finch Ave. W. court.
“As there is a publication ban in place we are unable to provide any further information,” Bell said.
Lankin is part of a Kitchener-Waterloo group called AW@L, that protests war, tar sands and champions the rights of indigenous people.
“Everyone would really like him to be released and there’s no reason for him to be held because all of the other 17 who were arrested on conspiracy charges — some much more serious accusations have already been released on bail,” said AW@L member Rachel Avery. “We are very hopeful. He’s been doing fairly well...The conditions in the detention centre have been well-documented as being very cold, sensory depravation with the lights being on throughout the night and minimal food and water.”
The CCLA is baffled as to why Lankin remains in custody.
“We don’t know why he’s deemed to be a danger to the public or a risk of not showing up to his next trial date, so it’s unclear to us what the evidence was to get to that ruling. We’re all operating on a dark stage,” Des Rosiers said.
We can’t “prevent the public from knowing what’s going on when there is a legitimate public interest in understanding what’s going on in the aftermath of the G20,” she said.

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