Family of Soleiman Faqiri not giving up fight for justice, mental health reforms

Soleiman Faqiri speaking outside the London Courthouse at the Justice for Soli rally on Saturday, September 19, 2020. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Nearly four years after the death of his brother Soleiman Faqiri at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., Yusuf Faqiri is not giving up his fight for justice.

After OPP decided not to lay criminal charges against the six guards at CECC allegedly involved in his death in 2016, Yusuf and his family are travelling across Ontario in the “Justice for Soli prison tour”.

Yusuf, his family, as well as the Social Justice Event Collect, People for Peace London, Prisoners Justice Film Festival and Council of Canadians London held a rally outside the London Courthouse Saturday to call for reforms in the justice system in the way people with mental health are treated.

“This is my brother, he had to a story to tell, and he was given to my mother in a body bag,” Yusuf said.

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Soleiman Faqiri died in December 2016 inside an Ontario jail cell, just 11 days after he arrived. Global News

Soleiman was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 19.

According to Yusuf, he was transferred to a cell at the CECC on Dec. 4, 2016, as he awaited a bed at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health in Whitby. Soleiman was there on charges of assault, threatening death and bodily harm and two counts of aggravated assault.

Eleven days later, Soleiman died inside a segregation cell at the facility following an altercation with guards, according to a coroner’s report.

Global News Peterborough has obtained a copy of the report, which found that Soleiman sustained “obvious injuries” during the incident but that the cause of death was unknown.

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Yusuf said his brother was found with his feet and hands bound with 50 bruises all over his body and that he had a hood over his head and had been pepper-sprayed more than once.

“It took my mom 11 years to keep Soleiman alive through her unwavering love, yet it took the justice system 11 days to kill him.”

Yusuf said his family was told the reason there were no charges against the guards because they did not know “who dealt the fatal blow.”

In an interview with Global News Peterborough in August, OPP were unable to confirm whether that was, in fact, the reason.

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Ibrahim and Fatima Faqiri at the Justice for Soli rally outside the London Courthouse on Saturday, September 19, 2020. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Yusuf hopes that by bringing attention to his brother’s case, they will one day see the officers involved in his death held accountable and that people with mental health issues are not locked up but rather put in places or with individuals that are qualified to treat them.

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“This movement is not just about Soleiman Faqiri; it is about all Canadians who have suffered from mental issues who have died at the hands of the justice system,” Yusuf said.

Among those in attendance were the parents of Justin Struthers, who died at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre on Dec. 26, 2017.

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Justin Struthers was found dead at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Dec. 26. Justin Struthers/Facebook

Glen Struthers, Justin’s father, said his son suffered from mental health challenges and that he tried to seek help at Goodrich Hospital.

A former partner of Justin’s told Global News in a 2017 interview when hospital staff would not admit him, he became agitated and hit a police officer, which is how he ended up in jail on Dec. 25.

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Glen said he thought his son was in the hospital and not in jail.

A day later, the family was told that Justin had choked himself; however, Glen said there was no evidence of choking or bruising on his neck but said the rest of his body was terrible.

“Mental illness is not a crime — changes need to be made, starting at the top,” Glen said.

“No one should come out in a body bag. Canada does not have a death penalty, so why do the detention centres.”

With files from Global News’s Noor Ibrahim and Liny Lamberink

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