Montreal Gazette: Article by Khadija Bennis, sister of Anas Bennis

famillebennisIn the past month, two Montrealers have been shot by Montreal police, one fatally. In British Columbia, disturbing evidence of a potential police cover-up in the death of a man in RCMP custody was also reported. I don’t read these news stories as a casual observer: I have had a loved one killed in a Montreal police intervention.

My brother Mohamed Anas Bennis was killed by Montreal police 19 months ago. Since then, my family and I have struggled to obtain basic answers about why my brother was killed, and in what circumstances. We are asking the same questions anyone would ask in the same situation.

I am now reaching out to all Montrealers of good conscience to ask that they help in making sure the truth will prevail.

On Dec. 1, 2005, in the early morning, my 25-year-old brother was returning from prayers at a neighbourhood mosque in C?te des Neiges, just minutes from where we lived. He was shot and killed because, inexplicably, he is alleged to have had a kitchen knife and threatened a police officer involved in a separate incident completely unrelated to my brother.

I knew my brother well – he was my twin – and the actions ascribed to him make no sense. My brother was a generous and gentle person, with everything to live for. He was engaged to be married, and had recently started a business. It was completely out of character that suddenly, one morning, my brother would attack a police officer, or anyone, with a knife after his morning prayers just steps from his house.

I love my brother, of course, and I won’t love him any less if the acts ascribed to him are proven to be true.

Nineteen months after my brother’s death, my family and I are asking only that the truth of how my brother was killed be revealed through testimony and evidence in a full, independent and transparent inquiry.

From the little information that we have, there are some disturbing facts. According to the autopsy, the bullets that killed my brother entered his body downward, indicating that he was not in a threatening position. The kitchen knife that my brother allegedly possessed has never been produced. The injuries allegedly sustained by a police officer have never been proven. There is even a security video of the incident that the police refuse to divulge.

There are many other basic unanswered questions, such as confirmation about which police officer actually shot and killed my dear brother.

Since December 2005, my family and I put our trust in the procedures use by the police and government, particularly the Quebec Ministry of Public Security under Jacques Dupuis. But those procedures have proven to be completely inadequate, if not insulting.

Our family cannot even have access to the report produced by the investigating police or the crown attorney’s report concerning this matter. We are not even allowed to have a partial report. Despite our letters, Dupuis has remained silent.

After a police shooting resulting in death, the Ministry of Public Security’s policies allow for all reports and evidence to remain secret. This heavy-handed approach prevents even journalists from investigating the facts.

Ironically, if my brother had survived and was charged with a crime, he would at the very minimum have the right to know the evidence against him and to defend himself. My brother’s life, and voice, were taken away. But as a family, we are his voice, and to defend his memory we will continue to demand basic answers.

Since the day Anas was killed, I feel my family has been treated with disrespect. And for every day that goes by without basic answers being provided, that disrespect increases.

Despite our efforts for almost two years, Dupuis and his department have not provided any basic answers to my family.

In January 2006, on one of the coldest days of the year, several thousand protesters demonstrated to demand the truth concerning Anas’s death. Throughout 2006, we were hoping for answers, but by the first anniversary of Anas’s death, we were still in the dark.

The Justice for Anas Coalition was formed in January 2007, and has organized public meetings, formed delegations and written letters, all without a substantive reply from the minister.

Just last week, physicians from the C?te des Neiges neighbourhood called upon Dupuis to uncover the mystery surrounding the death of my brother. In their letter, they have not excluded the possibility that racial profiling might have played a role in the police shooting of my brother, an identifiable and practising Muslim.

Now, I am reaching out to Gazette readers for your support. To break the almost two-years of silence, your pressure and support is needed.

I encourage you to consult to find out how you can support this case, and make sure justice, not secrecy, is served.

Khadija Bennis is the twin sister of Mohamed Anas Bennis, and an organizer with the Justice for Anas Coalition

[Original article HERE.]

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