Police continue to question air passenger detained in Toronto
By ESTANISLAO OZIEWICZ, The Globe and Mail
Saturday, September 15, 2001
TORONTO -- The RCMP confirmed yesterday that immigration officials at Pearson International Airport have detained a man who is being questioned in connection with this week's terrorist attacks in the U.S.
"The individual is of interest to the RCMP following the tragic events in the United States," said Sergeant Paul Marsh, an RCMP spokesman. "The individual was found with materials of interest -- we're talking about photos and a flight jacket.
"We have been in touch with U.S. authorities about this incident and we will continue to actively assess all information."
Sgt. Marsh would not confirm any further details of a report in yesterday's Globe and Mail, including that the man carried a Palestinian Authority travel document and a picture of himself in a flight-crew uniform against a fake backdrop of New York's World Trade Center, one of the attack targets.
Law-enforcement sources said the man, being questioned by immigration officials, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, arrived on a plane bound for the United States that was diverted to Pearson after Tuesday's attacks.
They said the man, believed to be in his 20s, was inexplicably delayed from arriving at his U.S. destination days before the attacks.
Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Toronto-based Canadian Arab Federation, said he was unfamiliar with the case but cautioned against any rush to judgment.
"I think the RCMP will be able to determine one way or another, but we still don't know whether his detention is related to a specific linkage to what happened, or he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong things," he said.
"So we really must retain the balance between a person being detained under suspicious circumstances and a direct connection to this horrible event."
The sources said all passengers on the 19 U.S.-bound flights diverted to Pearson would have had to go through the usual customs and immigration procedures. The man was not carrying a visa to enter Canada, but he would not have had to because his stated destination was the eastern United States.
He had a visa to enter the United States and was also carrying an expired Israeli travel document.
During a secondary immigration examination and search, the photo and suspicious items were discovered. The man identified himself as an aircraft maintenance engineer working for Palestinian Airways at Gaza International Airport.
Gaza airport, inaugurated in November 1998, by Yasser Arafat as the gateway to a future Palestinian state, is at the southern end of the crowded Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border.
The man was detained on the grounds that he is inadmissible to Canada and was issued a standard removal order that permits his detention.
Under the Immigration Act, he would in most cases be entitled to have a detention review within 48 hours. In some cases, where the person's identity is in doubt or the person is judged a danger to Canada, the review would be made seven days after arrest.
The man was initially held at the Immigration Department's detention centre near the airport, but he has been moved to an unknown detention centre.
René Mercier, a spokesman for the Immigration Department, said he could not speak about details of the case, even to acknowledge the RCMP's confirmation.
A detention review is done by an adjudicator of the Immigration and Refugee Board. Reviews are generally public, but the Immigration Department or the person may request in-camera proceedings.