Vaccine activist François Amalega Bitondo, detainee since Tuesday afternoon, appeared at the Municipal Court of Montreal on Wednesday morning. He asked to be released, while refusing to respect the sanitary measures in place.
The 43-year-old was the subject of an arrest warrant on Tuesday after refusing to wear a mask during his trial for obstructing the work of the police, in connection with events that occurred on March 12. Judge Annie-Claude Chassé must now decide whether he will remain in detention or be released on bail.
The former math teacher appeared by videoconference live from the southern operational center of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, without a mask. He refused the services of the legal aid lawyer present in the room.
Questioned by the judge on his intentions to respect health rules during a future appearance, Mr. Amalega Bitondo launched into a long speech on the need for judicial independence in the face of public health. After being revived a few times, the anti-sanitary measures activist finally said he would refuse to respect these instructions.
For his part, the City of Montreal prosecutor Hugo Lalonde recommended to the judge that the man remain in detention until his trial. He argued that it was not for him to “decide whether or not the rules apply to him”. “We can envision his trial taking place by videoconference, as it seems clear that he does not want to wear a mask,” he added.
As for François Amalega Bitondo, he claimed that he was able to enter and appear without a mask twice at the Municipal Court of the City of Montreal and the Joliette Courthouse in September. “I’m afraid of the mask,” he said a few times. He is due to appear before Judge Chassé again this afternoon.
In the morning of Tuesday, security guards asked him to leave the building because he was not wearing a mask. According to an officer, he would have lied at the entrance, citing a “medical condition” to be able to enter without submitting to the rules. As he was not present in the courtroom when the time came for his trial, and as he refused to comply with sanitary rules, Judge Marc Alain issued an arrest warrant.
François Amalega Bitondo is known to have organized stunts and anti-vaccine demonstrations in front of schools. He was due to stand trial for obstructing police work because he refused to wear a mask in a big box grocery store. According to what the anti-sanitary measures activist told the To have to, he would have walked into the same grocery store without a mask a few times in the past. An employee decided to call the police and he allegedly went outside. However, the man would have entered again without a mask while they were writing a ticket.