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July 21, 2004

Coalition joins cause

From: Toronto Star, Canada - Jul 21, 2004

Community groups back deaf man's case

Woodworker says he was beaten by police


A coalition of community groups — including the Canadian Hearing Society, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities — has taken up the cause of a Ghanan-born Canadian citizen, saying he was discriminated against because he is black and deaf.

"We have rallied around his cause because it is so rare for someone to have the courage to step forward," said lawyer Elisabeth Bruckmann, of Parkdale Community Legal Services.

Peter Owusu-Ansah, a 25-year-old woodworker, alleges Toronto police Constable Syed Moosvi assaulted him on the street and again behind a school, this time with Constable Wayne Taylor looking on.

Moosvi, 36, has pleaded not guilty to two counts and Taylor, 51, has pleaded not guilty to one count of assault. Both officers deny that any assault occurred, said their lawyers, Daniel Moore and Gary Clewley.

Clewley, lawyer for Moosvi, a 16-year veteran, said his client alleges that Owusu-Ansah hit him in the chest, so he arrested him for assaulting a police officer.

But Moosvi and Taylor later released him unconditionally when they realized he was deaf.

Owusu-Ansah was originally stopped for questioning with respect to a robbery, the lawyer said.

Owusu-Ansah, who has testified in court, told reporters his side of the story yesterday, helped by an interpreter.

He said the trouble started when he was stopped for his ID at Eglinton and Bayview Aves. by other officers on the night of Sept. 13, 2002. He didn't have identification with him, so an officer asked for his name, birth date and address. He gave his first name, not his last, because he was sick of being stopped for being black, he said.

Owusu-Ansah said that when Moosvi arrived on the scene as backup, he challenged the officer to take him to the police station if he had done something wrong. He offered his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, he said. "He just grabbed me and he twisted my arm on my back and he tried to break my arm," Owusu-Ansah said. Moosvi also kneed him in the groin, he said.

Then Moosvi and Taylor drove him to the parking lot of Northern Secondary School, Owusu-Ansah said. "He (Moosvi) started to punch my face," Owusu-Ansah said. "He kept punching my face and he kneed me and he slapped me and he took off his vest and asked me if I wanted to fight him," he said. After the alleged beating, the officers drove him to Mount Pleasant Blvd. where they dropped him off, he said.

Owusu-Ansah has filed a human-rights complaint. He is suing the Toronto Police Services Board and the officers for $60,000, Clewley said.

Ironically the court session was cut short yesterday due to the lack of a sign-language interpreter. Proceedings continued at an Old City Hall courtroom until shortly before 1 p.m. using an interpreter paid for by the coalition of community groups supporting the alleged victim of a police beating, but they ended when the interpreter was no longer available.

Mr. Justice Paul Robertson ruled that a state-paid interpreter should be made available when the trial resumes today.

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