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Khadr's Raw Deal: Child Soldier Finally Deemed No Threat

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Omar Khadr Condemns His Guantánamo Plea Deal, As Canada Concedes He Is Not A “Maximum-Security Threat”
by Andy Worthington
Good news from Canada, finally, as former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr has been “reclassified as a medium-security risk,” and will be moved from Edmonton, where he is currently held as a maximum-security prisoner, to Bowden Correctional Institution, north of Calgary. The move will probably take place in the next few weeks, as the Edmonton Journal described it on Friday.
 
Khadr, who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, has persistently been treated with disdain by the Canadian government, which, for ten years, failed to stand up for his rights as a Canadian citizen and a juvenile prisoner.
 
When Khadr finally agreed to a plea deal at Guantánamo, just to be sent home, the Canadian government dragged its heels regarding its own part of the bargain. After the plea deal was agreed, during his trial by military commission at Guantánamo in October 2010, Khadr was supposed to spend just one more year at Guantánamo followed by seven years’ imprisonment in Canada after his repatriation, but it took 23 months for him to be returned, and, since his return, he has been held as a maximum-security prisoner, even though he has never been a high-risk prisoner.
 
 
Dennis Edney, the Edmonton lawyer who has been representing Khadr for ten years, explained how the decision to reclassify Khadr as “medium-security,” which was taken by Kelly Hartle, the warden at Edmonton, “reflects a ‘plethora of evidence’ from US authorities and Canada’s prison ombudsman that Khadr never was a maximum-security threat,” as the Edmonton Journal described it.
 
In September, on Khadr’s 27th birthday, I reported how Ivan Zinger, the executive director of the independent Office of the Correctional Investigator, wrote in a letter to Anne Kelly, senior deputy commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, “The OCI has not found any evidence that Mr. Khadr’s behaviour while incarcerated has been problematic and that he could not be safely managed at a lower security level. I recommend that Mr. Khadr’s security classification be reassessed taking into account all available information and the actual level of risk posed by the offender.” Zinger added that Khadr had “shown no evidence of problematic behaviour while in Canadian custody,” and also stated, “According to a psychological report on file, Khadr interacted well with others and did not present with violent or extremist attitudes.”
 
Zinger also cited a US military psychiatrist as saying Khadr “showed no signs of aggressive or dangerous behaviour,” and “consistently verbalized his goal to conduct a peaceful, pro-social life as a Canadian citizen,” and noted, “Our office questions the rationale for not using these professional and expert assessments on file.”
In its article about Khadr’s reclassification, the Edmonton Journal noted that, when Khadr was returned to Canada last September, the US authorities described him as a “minimum-security risk based on his behavior in Guantánamo,” and this was also noted by Ivan Zinger.
 
As Edney stated, “They [the US authorities] should know; they held him for ten years.” He added that the reclassification was “long overdue,” adding that Khadr “should be designated minimum risk,” which is clearly true.
 
Nevertheless, the redesignation provides what the Edmonton Journal, describing Edney’s comments, called “a better possibility” that Khadr “will have access to the kinds of rehabilitation programs prisoners must complete to earn parole.”
 
Edney himself said, “My hope is that education will be available and the wonderful work by the King’s University College professors will continue,” adding that what will happen will become clear after he has talked to the warden and parole officer at Bowden. The reference to the King’s University College professors is primarily a reference to Arlette Zinck, the English professor who has been working with Khadr since he was in Guantánamo, and even got to visit him there before he came home. For further information, see my articles, “‘A Child’s Soul is Sacred’: Omar Khadr’s Touching Exchange of Letters with Canadian Professor,” and “Meet the Canadian Professor Who Has Been Teaching Omar Khadr at Guantánamo.”
 
Omar Khadr’s legal challenge to the Canadian government for violating his rights, and important revelations about his plea deal at Guantánamo.
 
While Khadr waits to be moved, further revelations of the injustice of his treatment have emerged in an affidavit filed in Canada’s federal court as part of a $20-million lawsuit against the Canadian government’s violation of his rights. The violation of his rights was confirmed in a ruling in January 2010 by Canada’s Supreme Court, based on his interrogation by Canadian agents at Guantánamo in 2003, when he was just 16, which was powerfully exposed in the documentary film, “You Don’t Like The Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo.”
 
In his affidavit, Khadr states that he only agreed to the plea deal in Guantánamo because, as Colin Perkel described it for the Canadian Press, “he knew the Americans could have held him indefinitely” — even if he was acquitted.
 
“I was left with a hopeless choice,” Khadr states in his affidavit, adding, “If I wanted the chance to eventually return to my home of Canada, I would have to be found guilty of crimes as determined by the US government, which could then lead to me serving my sentence in Canada.”

Without reaching a plea deal, Khadr “would have faced the possibility of life-long detention,” as Colin Perkel put it, and what he himself describes as “continued abuse and torture” at Guantánamo.
 
As Colin Perkel also explained, “The entire agreement, including the agreed stipulation of facts, was put together by the American government,” according to Khadr, who “also makes it clear that — in contrast to the agreed facts in the plea deal — he has never believed Jews or Americans should be killed or deserve to die.”
He also “says he never willingly joined an al-Qaida terrorist cell,” as Perkel described it, adding that his affidavit states, “Any participation in al-Qaida-related activities was at the demand of the adults around me,” and that this is “the first time Khadr has addressed such issues publicly.”
 
Khadr also states that the US case against him “was based in part” on evidence supplied by the Canadian intelligence officials who interviewed him at Guantánamo, and Perkel also noted that documents filed with the affidavit reveal that Canadian intelligence officials “knew the Americans would only grant access” to Khadr “if they would share information with the US,” a fact that, it is hoped, will be hard for the Canadian government to shake off, as it continues to claim that it has done nothing wrong.
 
Khadr also states in his affidavit that he has no recollection of the firefight that led to his capture, when, according to his plea deal, he threw a grenade that killed a US Special Forces soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. As the Toronto Star noted, he states in his affidavit, “I have no memory at all of that day or anything at all about a grenade being thrown at any US soldiers. During the firefight in question I absolutely did not, as stated in [the plea deal’s] stipulation of fact, plan to kill any soldiers, nor did I attack any after the firefight was over and the Americans entered the compound.”
 
As Colin Perkel noted, however, if he had denied these actions at Guantánamo it “would have left him unable to enter the plea deal” that led to his repatriation.
 
According to the US authorities, a plea deal at Guantánamo is not supposed to be challenged, but Khadr is appealing his conviction in the US, as I discussed here, “on the basis that the offences to which he pleaded guilty — including murder in violation of the rule of law — have no validity in either international or American law,” as Colin Perkel put it, adding that his affidavit states that, contrary to US assertions, “he never signed away his rights to appeal that conviction.”
 
In a final condemnation of his treatment at Guantánamo, Khadr states in his affidavit that, after pleading guilty, his “detention conditions deteriorated and he was interrogated for up to nine hours a day for nine or 10 days at a stretch.”
 
In conclusion, I am heartened by the news from Canada, and I hope that it signals two major steps towards Omar Khadr’s release from prison, and the unacceptably delayed opportunities that he needs to rebuild his life.
 
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
 
Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

- See more at: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/12/18/omar-khadr-condemns-his-guantanamo-plea-deal-as-canada-concedes-he-is-not-a-maximum-security-threat/#sthash.iiIJinQL.dpuf
 

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