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Ontario’s top pathologist says correctional officers to blame for Soleiman Faqiri death at Lindsay jail

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It has been four and a half years since Solieman Faqiri died while in custody at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay. Ontario's chief forensic pathologist new report confirms the death was caused by the actions of the correctional officers. Tricia Mason has the latest. – Aug 10, 2021

Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist said the actions of correctional officers at the Cental East Correctional Centre in Lindsay are at fault in the death of Soleiman Faqiri in 2016.

Dr. Michael Pollanen’s post-mortem review dated Aug. 5 — and issued publicly Tuesday by Faqiri’s family — said events leading to the death of 30-year-old Faqiri included prone position restraint, blunt impact trauma of the neck and body, handcuffing, shackling, application of a spit hood, and exposure to pepper spray after worsening symptoms of schizophrenia.

“His death occurred during struggle and restraint by correctional officers,” Pollanen concluded.

Read more: Ontario jail guards broke use-of-force rules in death of Soleiman Faqiri: court documents

According to a 2017 coroner’s report, Faqiri was in custody for 11 days and was awaiting a mental health assessment and a transfer to a medical facility when he got into an altercation with multiple guards and sustained more than 50 injuries. He was pronounced dead on Dec. 15.

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The cause of death was “unascertained,” and that the the injuries were “insufficient to explain death,” according to the 2017 report.

New court documents in December 2020 reported the Ajax, Ont., man was handcuffed face-down, pepper sprayed and his head was placed inside a spit hood — contrary to restraint training guidelines and policies at the Lindsay superjail.

Global News reached out to the Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General but as of late Tuesday afternoon has yet to receive a response.

Faqiri’s family members for years have been fighting for another review of his death. Three prison guards were fired but one was later reinstated following the incident.

In June 2021, Pollanen issued a new review into the circumstances of Faqiri’s death.

“In my opinion, the foregoing analysis makes it clear that death cannot be attributed to any singly ascertained factor or injury,” he concluded. “It is equally clear that death was caused by the combination of several ascertainable extrinsic and intrinsic cofactors.”

According to a lawyer of the Faqiri family, based on Pollanen’s new findings, the case has been returned to the Ontario Provincial Police for “possible criminal charges” against the correctional officers involved in the incident.

It will mark the third time that Soleiman’s case has been considered by police for potential criminal charges. Initially the City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service in October 2017 said there were no grounds to lay criminal charges.

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In August 2020, the OPP also concluded  no criminal charges would be laid against the six correctional officers involved in the incident. OPP launched their investigation in January 2019.

In a statement, Faqiri’s brother Yusuf, says his family relives the “killing” every time a new finding is revealed.

“Before Dr. Pollanen took over this case, no government institution had shown any interest in finding out what really happened to my brother,” Yusuf said.

“To the Ontario Provincial Police — we call on you to do your job. Stop trying to make this case go away. We will bring this case back for a fourth time and a fifth time if you continue to ignore what happened here.

“The OPP and the Kawartha Lakes Police Service have repeatedly failed my family at every possible opportunity. Prove to us that the system doesn’t protect correctional officers when they break the law. Until then, we have no confidence in the OPP to do what is right.”

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Family lawyer Nader Hasan says Pollanen’s report has “removed any ambiguity” as to the cause of Faqiri’s death.

“It is now clear beyond any doubt that guards killed Soleiman,” he stated. “For almost five years, police forces hid behind the previous ‘unascertained’ finding in the post-mortem report as an excuse for not laying criminal charges. The Pollanen report has removed any ambiguity as to the cause of death. There is no longer any excuse for allowing these guards to get away with murder.”

Ted Marroco, another family lawyer, said Faqiri was “defenceless and shackled” and died due to a lethal combination of excessive force.

“There is no justification for what was done to him,” he stated. “There is no training that authorizes correctional officers to use this kind of violence. Pollanen has drawn a direct connection between the brutality Soleiman endured from the guards and the death of his body. There is no mystery remaining in the killing of Soleiman Faqiri.”

Late Tuesday afternoon NDP justice critic Gurratan Singh stated Faqiri’s death must be re-investigated.

“Our hearts and minds are with Soleiman Faqiri’s family,” said Singh. “They have endured the pain of being reminded of the details of Soleiman’s violent and heartbreaking death, again and again, in their fight for justice. I hope today’s report offers hope in the truth— confirming what the Faqiri family has always known about Soleiman’s death.

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“This is a step forward in the quest for justice, but true justice would be for Soleiman to be alive today. In light of this report, the death of Soleiman Faqiri must be re-investigated and anyone found responsible must be held accountable. Ontarians also deserve systemic change in the criminal justice system to ensure that people experiencing mental illness get help, not violence.”

— more to come

 

— With files from Kamil Karamali/Global News

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