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Toronto G20 Repression Update: Joel Bitar Waives Extradition and Returns to Canada; Gains #2 G20 Protester Status

photo-31Via Support Joel Bitar:

At the time of our last update, Joel Bitar, had been arrested in New York City on a provisional arrest warrant on February 14, 2013, by US federal marshals acting on a foreign extradition request from Canadian authorities. Joel was charged with 26 counts, almost all relating to property damage that occurred during the G20 summit protests in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in June 2010. At his hearing on February 19th, Joel was granted bail and placed under house arrest pending his extradition hearing. Since that time, Canadian authorities—cheered on and abetted by the United States government—embroiled four more Americans in the seemingly never-ending Toronto G20 repression, requesting their extradition to Canada for property damage and mask-wearing. Three of these four have already been arraigned in Canada, been granted bail, and have returned to the United States to await further legal proceedings.

On Friday, April 12th, Joel once again appeared in Federal Court, but this time to waive extradition, which would allow him to voluntarily—the customary way that the courts reference threats of arrest, imprisonment, house arrest, prosecution, and of course, extradition—return to Canada for arraignment. The Assistant U.S. Attorney voiced no objections and the magistrate judge approved the waiver. Joel’s bail was modified to allow him to travel to Canada—his passport was returned and arrangements were made to remove his ankle monitor on the day of his flight. The voluntary nature of the situation was affirmed at the end of the proceedings, with a stern reminder by the magistrate judge that Joel has one option—surrender to Canadian authorities at the given time or face prosecution in the United States, as well as the forfeiture of the $500,000 bond to the ruination of his family.

On Tuesday, April 16th, Joel traveled to Canada along with his father and was immediately arrested by Canadian authorities upon his arrival at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. By the time Joel was transferred into the hands of the Toronto Police Department it was too late for arraignment, which was scheduled for the next day, Wednesday, April 17th. Following the precedent of the prior three Americans who had been arraigned for charges from the Toronto G20, Joel was granted bail—in the amount of $100,000—with certain stipulations such as non-association with certain Canadian activists as well as a prohibition on attending any protests in Canada. Joel traveled back to his home in New York City later that same day and is free to go about his life as long as he returns to Canada—voluntarily—as needed.

In preparation for Joel’s return to Canada, the Toronto Police Department’s smear campaign went to work—leaking alleged photos of Joel to the media, and Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux spinning straw into a man by dubbing Joel “the number two guy” on the basis of grainy surveillance photos and innocuous Facebook posts. Joel was one of 1100 people arrested at the Toronto G20 protests, the largest mass arrest in Canada’s history. These arrests have led to numerous charges of brutality and misconduct by the police during the G20 protests, as well as lawsuits and even an official public inquiry that have substantiated these claims. The charges against Joel, which are simply that—charges—almost exclusively relating to property damage, led to him being pursued across international borders, meanwhile those responsible for endangering the lives of thousands of Canadian citizens during the G20, those who beat and gassed and terrified people—the police—continue on undaunted.

We remain in solidarity with Joel, and all those who face state repression.

More updates as necessary.

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