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Soleiman Faqiri's death left family 'adrift,' coroner's inquest hears

Soleiman Faqiri is shown in this undated family handout photo. In the 11 days before Soleiman Faqiri's death, family members tried to visit him four times, making the hour-long drive to the Ontario jail where he was being held, his brother said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Yusuf Faqiri *MANDATORY CREDIT*

TORONTO — The family of a mentally ill man who died in his cell at an Ontario jail nearly seven years ago has told a coroner's inquest that his death has left a "deep, painful hole" in their lives.

A statement by Soleiman Faqiri's older brother, Yusuf Faqiri, on behalf of the family was read by coroner's counsel Friday afternoon at the inquest into the 30-year-old man's death.

In it, Yusuf Faqiri described his brother as a devoted son and sibling who "always put family first," a gifted scholar and chess player, and a "source of wisdom" for many around him.

The statement says Soleiman Faqiri helped his father manage his business, taught his mother how to read Arabic and Farsi, and supported his sister when she wanted to leave a bad marriage.

It says Faqiri was "an anchor" and his death has left his family "adrift."

The inquest has heard Faqiri was arrested in early December 2016 after allegedly stabbing a neighbour while experiencing a mental-health crisis. He died after a violent struggle with corrections officers on Dec. 15, 2016.

Faqiri was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005 after a serious car accident, the statement said. "His life would never be the same," it said.

He was unable to complete his engineering studies and returned to live at home full time, the statement said.

In the 11 years that followed, the family rallied around him, it said. "We cared for him the best that we could. It was not easy," it said.

"We advocated constantly," trying to find him a home and get his condition stabilized, it said.

"The health-care system, sadly, was never able to come through for him," it said. Even before his arrest, "he suffered from a system lack of mental-health supports."

At the time of his arrest, Faqiri was "deep in crisis," the statement said. His family "never gave up on trying to get him help” while he was in custody, but it felt like no one would listen, it said.

The family learned of Faqiri's death around 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, it said.  Police officers told them he had died after an "interaction" with the guards, but gave them no further details. 

Since then, the family has fought to find out what happened, the statement said.

The inquest began Monday and is expected to last 15 days. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2023.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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