Prepare to be shocked. I was.
Today, after four days of bureaucratic hoop-jumping I got to visit political prisoner Ernst Zundel as his legal representative. The news is not good. He’s being kept in degrading, mediaeval conditions in an effort to punish him for speaking out against CSIS.
On Sunday, May 18, just back from a speaking trip to Winnipeg, I picked up two desperate phone messages from Ingrid Rimland, Ernst Zundel’s wife. He had disappeared. She did not know where he was being kept. He’d been moved from the Niagara Region Detention Centre. He had not been allowed the use of a phone for 48 hours. She had just learned he was now in the Metro West Detention Centre, near Toronto International Airport.
I raced up to the Metro West Detention Centre. Ushered inside, I was eventually met by Mr. Verrinder, the Shift Supervisor. No, I couldn’t see Mr. Zundel. I would have to be cleared by security. He was a “special” prisoner, Mr. Verrinder informed me. I could call security 416-675-1806, Ext.4220 to be cleared. However, being Sunday, no one was there. The next day, Victoria Day, was another holiday and no one answered the phone in “security.”
I asked Mr. Verrinder whether Mr. Zundel was allowed newspapers or a pen. “I’m not prepared to share that information with you,” this public servant told me. I then asked to see Mr. Zundel as a friend, rather than as a legal representative.
All visitors had to be cleared, I was told. And, of course, there was no one available to clear me.
This morning, I learned that, being a special prisoner, Ernst Zundel cannot receive visitors during normal visiting hours. I hastened to the prison for 11:30 — normal visiting hours start at 12:30.
After a long wait, I was advised that they had brought Mr. Zundel to the interview room. I talked with him by phone with a thick glass separating us. Ernst looked pale in contrast to his bright oranger prison jumpsuit. He had a thick white beard stubble. I learned that he had been denied a razor since he got there on Friday. He asked for a razor again today and was told, “maybe tomorrow.”
Ernst was his usual brave self, but is clearly taken aback by the mindless callousness of a system intended to break its “special” prisoners. Most of his few possessions are kept outside his cell in the hall. When he goes to the toilet (inside) his cell, for instance, he must call for a guard to hand him his soap and a towel. The guard may or may not come. “Surely,” Mr. Zundel says, with practical German peasant common sense, “this sort of delay is unsanitary, when people are worried about SARS and other diseases.” He’s not allowed soap or a towel in his cell. Toilet paper is rice-paper thin squares about 2′ x 3′. If you get diarrhoea, you’re out of luck. To clean your hands, you must summon a guard and let all the other prisoners know your humiliation.
When he wants to brush his teeth, he must ask a guard to hand him his toothbrush, which sits outside his cell. For the rest of the time, his toothbrush sits in the hall with the dust. “This cannot be sanitary,” Mr. Zundel remarks.
Any movement outside his cell requires the “special” treatment. “Security has never been tighter,” he says. “I always have an officer and two guards when I leave my cell for a shower or to make a phone call,” he reports.
He has almost no privileges and has still not been informed of prisoner’s rights. I asked Mr. Verrinder for a statement of those rights on Sunday. I was told that Ernst would have to request them. He’s received nothing. This morning, he asked to make a phone call. “I was told, ‘Maybe tomorrow,’” he said.
When I arrived at the prison, I looked up Security Director Mike Richard in order to arrange for Mr. Zundel to have the five volumes of support documents on which the CSIS reports in his detention case are based. Richard said they’d be kept outside his cell and that he’d have to ask for them one by one. I had asked Richard about pens, papers and other supplies. Richard said Ernst could get them from the canteen. However, canteen orders go in on Sunday to be delivered later in the week. Mr. Zundel had been told nothing about his right to order things.
Mr. Zundel has asked for his Inmate Classification. This is the institution’s assessment of him — dangerous, model, whatever. This assessment can be appealed. It’s his right to have access to this document, according to the Solicitor-General. Thus far, he’s received no response to his request.
His legal documents are all in a box out in the hall outside his cell. “In Niagara, I had access to phone calls, almost at will. Here, I’m very much impeded with little phone access.”
Most guards are brusque and unhelpful, he reports.
Compared to the Niagara Regional Detention Centre, the food is scarce and poor. Sometimes there’s no butter. In Niagara, there was always a cup of coffee and sweets at night. In Metro West, there’s nothing. “It’s one third the rations and poorer quality than the food in Thorold,” Mr. Zundel told me.
The administration keeps up a campaign of isolation and harassment. Communication with the higher prison authorities must be in writing on prescribed “request forms.” Mr. Zundel has asked for such forms since Saturday but has still not been provided with any.
Last week, Mr. Zundel filed a complaint with the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the body that oversees CSIS, asking that they investigate the shocking information in John Mitrovica’s book COVERT ENTRY, which shows that CSIS knew that the pipebomb was coming to Zundel and did nothing to prevent it or to warn or protect him.
Last week, there was a flurry of activity among the administration in the Niagara Region Detention Centre. Within a day, Mr. Zundel was transferred. The transfer and the severe restrictions “are punishment and retribution,” Mr. Zundel says.
However, Ernst Zundel is not discouraged. We discussed several daring legal plans. Canada has not heard the last of Ernst Zundel. As the great English poet John Milton wrote: “Iron bars do no a prison make.”
Friends of free thought, Ernst Zundel really needs your help.
1. If you live abroad, write to the Canadian Embassy in your country and demand Zundel’s release and humane treatment.
2. If you live in southern Ontario and wish to visit, call ahead to Security: 416-675-1806 Ext. 4220. You must be on Zundel’s approved list. He didn’t know he was supposed to submit a list of visitors he’d like to see. You can also get directions, when you call.
3. No matter where you live, why not send a card or letter to encourage Ernst Zundel. Write Prisoner Ernst Zundel, c/o Metro West Detention Centre, 111 Disco Road, Rexdale, ON., M9W 1M3.
4. We also need your financial support for Mr. Zundel’s defence. We have a number of delicate colour-pencil sketches by Ernst Zundel done in prison. Each is dated and signed. Each is a nature study. Mr. Zundel has long been a paint and sketch artist. He had returned to his love of art before the U.S. I.N.S picked him up and deported him. If you send us a cheque for $100 or more, we’ll send you one of these collector’s items, a thank you sketch by political prisoner Ernst Zundel.
Mail your donation today to CAFE Box 332, Rexdale, ON., M9W 5L3, Canada or e-mail us your VISA number and expiry date. On your cheque or an accompanying piece of paper, note: “For Zundel Defence Fund.”
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR FREE EXPRESSION
Courtesy Henry Makow
See: The Other Side of Holocaust Denial