Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kudos for Casey

Brenda Martin.

A Canadian woman who has been imprisoned in Mexico for the past two years on charges of fraud. Without a trial. I watched a W-5 piece on her story about a month ago. It was interesting. Revealing. And sad. You can find the full story of what led to her imprisonment here.

And a shorter version here.
Ms. Martin, 51, of Trenton, Ont., is in the Puente Grande women’s prison, having been detained by Mexican authorities in February 2006 for alleged involvement in a $60-million pyramid investment scheme involving 15,000 people in dozens of countries.

According to The Canadian Press, she insists she was a chef and not an accomplice, and her former boss, Alyn Waage — who was convicted in the case and is serving time in California — also says she wasn’t involved.

And her Toronto lawyer says she wasn’t given a proper translator during the police investigation and legal process.
Now I have no idea whether she's actually guilty of these charges or not. Although it's interesting to note that her former boss, the alleged mastermind of this Internet-based fraud scheme, has stated that Mexican officials are using Martin as collateral for his unpaid debt. Alyn Waage said his lawyers struck a deal with Mexican officials the day after his arrest in 2001, when he agreed to pay $500,000 for his freedom. But he fled to Costa Rica when an appeals court released him on bail and was later apprehended extradited to a low-security federal prison in North Carolina, where he’s serving a 10-year sentence. At any rate, Waage claims Mexican officials are now holding Martin, and another former employee as "ransom" for his unpaid debt.

But the real problem I have is with Martin being held for the past two years in a three-metre by four-metre cell with 11 other women, some of whom are convicted murderers and drug dealers, in direct contravention of international human rights treaties to which both Canada and Mexico have agreed to. Being held for two years without any move to bring the matter to trial, where her guilt or innocence could actually be judged. Being held with only the minimum of contact with Canadian officials despite numerous pleas to Canadian Foreign Affairs by both Martin, her friends and family members.

Until now, that is.

In rides our knight on a white horse, an Independent MP from Nova Scotia, Bill Casey. Mr Casey recently distinguished himself by being one of the few only MPs to stand up to the federal government's bullying of Nova Scotia around the off-shore accord, resulting in him being kicked out of the Conservative cabinet. Now, on Ms. Martin's behalf, he not only sent a letter to Mexico’s ambassador to Canada, expressing his concern over her imprisonment and treatment over the past two years but has also suggested that Canadians boycott Mexico as a tourist destination.
"I respectfully request that the appropriate authorities . . . release Brenda Martin to Canada based on the fact that the punishment that she has already received . . . exceeds an appropriate penalty for the accusations against her, even if they were true," Mr. Casey wrote.

"If this case is not resolved soon, I consider it my responsibility to notify every single one of my constituents . . . that their safety is at risk in Mexico and that Mexico does not respond to Canadian attempts to seek justice on their behalf," he wrote.
And given the number of Canadian tourists killed in Mexico, including the botched handling by Mexican authorities of the murder of a Canadian couple last year, where two young Canadian women were hounded as suspects for a murder they essentially knew nothing about, stating that our "safety is at risk ... and that Mexico does not respond to Canadian attempts to seek justice on their behalf" doesn't really seem like that much of a stretch.

Apparently Mr. Casey, in an effort to recognize Ms. Martin's fears that a boycott by Canadian tourists might just result in angering Mexican authorities if the country starts losing money, has now stated that he is not advocating a tourist boycott at this time. However, he has made plans to meet with the Mexican ambassador next week to discuss Ms. Martin's case further. Which appears to be a hell of a lot more than her own MP or anyone else in the federal government has done on Martin's behalf.

To which I say, kudos to you Mr. Casey. It's refreshing to see a politician who stands up, not only for his home province and his own constituents, but for all Canadians.

Thank you, sir. Something tells me you will be rewarded in the next round of elections.

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