Monday, December 05, 2005

Jim Loney

by Carrie Kristal-Schroder

A group claiming to represent three Arab men detained on secret security certificates in Canada is calling on the kidnappers of four aid workers in Iraq to release their hostages. In an open letter released to Canadian media yesterday, the group says that one of the Canadians being held, James Loney, 41, of Toronto, has worked to try to free three Arab men now being held in Canada on anti-terrorism security certificates.

"It pains our heart to know that a person of this calibre is being held captive," the letter says. "We care about his freedom more than we do our own. If you love Allah, if you have goodness in your heart, please deal with this matter as righteous Muslims and not let these kind, caring, compassionate and innocent people suffer."

The letter is signed by Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Hassan Almrei, detained in Toronto." This (letter) was initiated by the (detained men), and they actually have pictures in the jail with them of Jim Loney from when he was part of a demonstration calling for their release," said Matthew Behrens, a spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada. "And they knew that Jim has not only worked for the freedom of Muslim prisoners here in Canada, he's also done that in Iraq."

Mr. Behrens said detained men have no other agenda in seeking the release of Mr. Loney but his safety and security, and wanted to add their voices to others who are calling for release of the hostages in Iraq.

Mr. Behrens said one of the detainees, one of whom is currently in solitary confinement, dictated his words over the telephone. Mr. Behrens, who said he has known Mr. Loney for more than 20 years, added that his organization has been endorsed by many prominent Canadians including as David Suzuki, former NDP leader Alexa McDonough and Alexandre Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

"All our members and the people who support us recognize that there's a real injustice going on here in Canada, and we're basically saying we shouldn't be detaining anyone without charge anywhere on the planet."

The group has also lobbied on behalf of Mohamed Harkat of Ottawa, who has been held on a security certificate since December 2002.

Mr. Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Montreal were abducted at gunpoint in Baghdad on Nov. 26 along with Briton Norman Kember, 74, and American Tom Fox, 54. All four are members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams, a Chicago-based human rights organization.

Their kidnappers, a little-known group that calls itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, accuses the four of being American spies and says it will kill them unless all Iraqis imprisoned in American and Iraqi jails are freed by Thursday.

"We hope and pray to see these captives freed as much as we hope and pray for our own freedom here in Canada, a freedom for which James Loney has worked so hard," the open letter says. Mr. Loney is a Toronto resident known for his work with the homeless in that city. He's been working with the Peacemakers since 2000 and is currently the Canadian program co-ordinator. He had visited Iraq three times before and was leading a delegation when he was abducted. His parents live in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

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