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Joe Callahan case ends in victory

By staff

Thunder Bay, ON – On Nov. 1, Joe Callahan’s trial on immigration charges here in the Ontario Court of Justice ended in victory for Callahan and the movement. During the two-day trial, 30 members of the Joe Callahan Support Committee from Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota and Thunder Bay, along with Callahan’s family members, packed the court room.

In July 2011 Joe Callahan was arrested at the Pigeon River border crossing into Canada. The crossing is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. A backpack containing El Salvadoran passports and maps of the area were found in his trunk. At the same time, a couple from El Salvador seeking refugee status was picked up in the area. Callahan was arrested and spent the next 30 days in a Thunder Bay jail in deplorable conditions. The most serious charge was ‘human trafficking and smuggling,’ which carries a sentence of very large fines and years in jail. He was released on $75,000 bail and returned to Minneapolis while he awaited trial.

After many months, these serious charges were finally dropped. On Oct. 31, Callahan pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting under Canada’s Immigration and Protection Act. The charge of providing misleading information was dropped. However, the Crown continued to play hardball. The prosecutor asked for a three to six month prison sentence, arguing that bringing people in illegally put the country in danger. He also admitted he’d never seen such a level of support for a defendant in the courtroom.

Francis Thatcher, Callahan’s lawyer, made a powerful case that Joe is a humanitarian and that what he did was in keeping with his lifelong commitment to immigrant rights. In his statement to the court, Callahan said, “I lived in Arizona and saw how ‘coyotes’ exploited and endangered undocumented immigrants. I would never do this. I find it abhorrent.”

The judge sentenced Callahan with a $5000 fine and no prison time. She also referred to the number of Callahan’s supporters in the courtroom and the 23 letters written on his behalf.

Callahan has returned to his home. He will continue to organize against U.S.-led wars, for immigrant rights and against repression – including the 23 people under investigation by a federal grand jury in Chicago for their international solidarity work in Palestine and Colombia – for the Cuban 5, for the two Somali women from Rochester, Minnesota who have been convicted of material support and for many other political prisoners.

The favorable outcome for Callahan comes after the victory of Carlos Montes against political repression.

A victory party will be held Nov. 24 at 7:00 p.m. at 4200 Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis.

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