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Deported Student Tells of Time Inside Canadian Jail

Last student is deported to Pakistan
Joyia recalls `hell' of 95 days in jail for bogus reasons
Fears for safety after terrorism charges unproven

SONIA VERMA STAFF REPORTER Toronto Star Nov 18, 2003

In prison, Manzoor Qadar Joyia used to pace the floor of his tiny cell to pass the time, measuring the number of days he spent behind bars in footsteps. "In prison it was hell. This was the only way I could keep track of time," said the 30-year-old physician.

Yesterday, he became the last of 21 men arrested last summer on unproven terrorism suspicions to leave Maplehurst Correctional Facility with a one-way ticket back to Pakistan.

He had spent exactly 95 days there for misrepresenting himself on the student visa that secured his passage here more than two years ago. But as Joyia tells it, his lengthy detention had more to do with accusations of aiding Al Qaeda terrorism, allegations which could not be proven. "I have nothing to do with terrorism. Why have they put on us these allegations of terror? Without evidence, why did they do that?" he asked.

Joyia's story echoes those of other Pakistani students arrested under a federal investigation called Project Thread that has since unravelled. The students were taken into custody on Aug. 14 and held under anti-terrorism measures adopted after Sept. 11, 2001. In October, immigration officials conceded they didn't have evidence to back their concerns. Since then, 10 of the detainees have been ordered out of the country on immigration violations. The rest are out on bail, seeking refugee status in Canada because they believe the terrorism allegations will endanger their lives in Pakistan.

"I belong to a country where violent interrogation is used," Joyia said of Pakistan. "Back home, people know I have been accused of terrorism. With that reputation I won't be able to live my life in peace," he said.

Joyia first came to Canada in January, 2001, on a six-month visa to study medicine at the Kaplan Institute. When his visa ran out, he applied for a study permit allowing him to continue his studies at Ottawa Business College. He paid more than $7,000 in tuition fees, but says that when he showed up for classes, he discovered the college did not exist.

Joyia concedes he should have applied for a new visa. Instead, he continued to quietly study for his medical exams using the permit for the business college.
Meanwhile, federal authorities were tipped off on the college. They discovered the school was illegitimate and seized almost 400 student files, according to court documents. From those files, investigators zeroed in on the group of Pakistani students.

The students are now asking for a public inquiry into their arrest and detention.

With files from Philip Mascoll

Source: The Toronto Star

For more information: threadbare.tyo.ca
Project Threadbare:
"A city-wide coalition in Toronto, Ontario that came together in response to the arrest and detention of twenty Pakistani men and one south Indian man in August 2003. Being Pakistani is NOT a Crime... STOP THE DEPORTATIONS NOW! DEFEND CIVIL LIBERTIES!"