Letters to the Editor

Romanian refugees going directly to trial on theft charges

CALGARY (CP) — Self-proclaimed Romanian gypsy refugees accused of swarming thefts will be going directly to trial.

Six adults, along with a youth, were arrested in Calgary nearly a month ago after two highly organized thefts from liquor stores. They are suspected of distracting shop clerks while carrying out the thefts, one of which included walking out with a safe.

The crimes were caught on videotape.

One by one the names of the adult accused were read out in court Thursday: Viorel Chiciu, Lucan Poenaru, Illeana Misclescu, Luliana Boana, Ancuta Sardaru and Aurora Ciciu.

The court security officer paused for a second and then called back into the cells: “All the gypsies, please.”

The four women and two men, clad in the usual blue detention centre jumpsuits, then made a brief court appearance and watched silently while their lawyer waived their right to a preliminary trial and indicated they want to be tried by judge alone.

The two men sat on two chairs in the front of the prisoner’s docket. The four women stood in a row behind them. One was visibly pregnant; another looked down, fingering the beads on her rosary.

A formal reading of the charges is to occur Feb. 23. A trial date is to be set at that point. The suspects had previously been denied bail.

Their lawyer, Balfour Der, said outside court that he wants to go to trial in March or April. It isn’t fair, he suggested, to have his clients, sit in jail for six months waiting for a trial.

“My clients don’t understand how I can get a fellow out on bail who has taken $300,000 in a bank robbery ... and they can’t get out,” said Der.

“They’re not Canadian citizens but it seems an inequity there.”

The fact that one of the women is pregnant adds to the urgency of the case, said Der, who added he worries she may end up giving birth at the Calgary Detention Centre.

“It’s a real concern because she’s fairly far along in her pregnancy. She’s trying to keep her spirits up but it’s not easy at the thought of having a baby in the remand centre.”

The accused have applied for refugee status and “came a long way to get here,” said Der. They hope to apply for Canadian citizenship.

But even if there were a criminal conviction, that wouldn’t automatically mean they would be deported, he said.

“It would ... be up to immigration authorities whether they would be or not.”

Gypsies are a nomadic people found in Europe and North America and are of Hindu original. They speak the Romany language, which is related to Hindi.

Der confirmed his clients consider themselves gypsies.

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