#1Feb 7th, 2007
'Help save what's left of my life'
B.C. dad sees no end of jail fights, beatings, meals of garbage
Susan LazarukThe Province
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
CREDIT: Ric Ernst, The ProvinceJessica Kimber holds a family photo of her father Peter Kimber.MEXICO - A B.C. construction worker jailed for more than two years in Mexico over a building contract that went sour says he's been wrongly imprisoned by a corrupt system.
"Get me out of here," a frustrated Peter Kimber said yesterday from his prison cell in Huatulco, where he suffers from kidney problems and other ill health.
He said he has endured dozens of beatings and atrocious conditions because he can't pay bribes to get out.
"I want somebody to actually help save what's left of my life," he said. "I've tried it on my own for two years and four months. There's absolutely no way for a human being to fight against these people legally."
Kimber, 44, lived in Mission before moving to Mexico in 2001 with his then common-law wife, her four daughters and his three children from a previous marriage.
He said he was arrested on Oct. 15, 2004, after a couple from the U.K. reneged on a contract to have Kimber build them a home.
He said Kevin and Tess Hunneybell, who run the Oaxaca Hotel bed-and-breakfast in Huatulco, had him arrested for fraud.
The Hunneybells couldn't be reached for comment.
Kimber related the horrors of living in inhumane conditions, where "dog-eat-dog" fights over food are common because prisoners are given $25 a month to buy food, drinking water, clothing and toiletries.
"I never envisioned eating out of garbage cans that people have been spitting in all day or beating the living hell out of someone because I want his food," he said.
Kimber estimated he's been in 150 fights and was stabbed by a blood-filled syringe during a jail robbery.
He said money he's paid for bribes to get out of the prison has been wasted and he's been asked to sign blank documents and confessions to crimes he didn't commit.
His family was deported back to Canada after his arrest.
It never occurred to Kimber or his eldest daughter, Jessica, 21, who is caring for her brother, 17, and Julia, 15, in Abbotsford to go to the media before now, he said.
Jessica said she and her siblings are torn apart by their dad's imprisonment and they send him money for food when they can.
"You just don't know if every time you talk to him if it's going to be the last time," she said.
It was a chance meeting his daughters had with North Vancouver author and radio personality Anne Marie Evers at a women's fair in Abbotsford last October that put the spotlight on Kimber's case.
Evers told her friend, John Joseph Kennedy, an entrepreneur who is running as a Democrat for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
Kennedy, who with his sister had helped free their brother from a wrongful conviction in Thailand in the 1990s, kicked into action.
He set up a website, www.freepeterkimber.com (external - login to view), and fired off letters to the prison warden demanding an end to Kimber's ill treatment and to the International Criminal Court.
"It just made me furious the way he's been treated," Kennedy said from his Georgia home. "It's one of the cruelest injustices toward humanity. It's turned into a nightmare. It's so corrupt in that area of Mexico, with rioting and violence, it's a dangerous place. I knew I had to go over the heads of the government."
Canadian Foreign Affairs sent a representative on Jan. 21 to "follow up on the health and security issues," said spokesman Alain Cacchione. He would not elaborate.
Lawyer Peter Benning, a friend of Kimber's, said it's up to Canada to pressure the Mexican government.
He said the situation is urgent because jail authorities are acting with increasing aggression toward Kimber every time he speaks out.
Kimber's imprisonment "came out of a business disagreement, the kind of thing that would be resolved in small-claims court in Canada and he's been in jail for two years and four months and it's not even clear if he's had a trial yet," Benning said.
Mauricio Guerrero, press attache at the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa, said unless the Canadian authorities ask for concrete action, the embassy would not get involved because the dispute is in the jurisdiction of local Mexican authorities.
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