ten years too long: bring omar khadr back to canada

Today marks 10 years since Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, then 15 years old, was picked up in Afghanistan. For an entire decade, he has lived in prison, first in Bagram, then in the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. He lives in solitary confinement, which is recognized internationally as a form of torture.

Just this week, Public Safety [sic] Minister Vic Toews scrambled to find new excuses to not bring Khadr back to Canada. Professional wingnut Ezra Levant launched a new campaign to discredit Khadr and bolster the government's case. We can only hope that, as with most of Levant's ranting, this one will end up backfiring.

May I please ask you to do three things?

First, if you have not already done so, sign the petition created by Senator Romeo Dallaire, calling on Toews to bring Khadr back to Canada.

Second, please share the petition with everyone you know.

And third, read this excellent column by Thomas Walkom.
Some are down on Ezra Levant, the prolific conservative gadfly who pops up on every known mass medium to offer unsolicited views.

But in the case of Omar Khadr and the reluctant minister, I think Levant has performed a great service.

He has done so by making public some of the strange reasoning that informs Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ decision to delay Khadr’s return to Canada.

And in doing so, he has inadvertently made clear the absurdity of the government’s excuses.

Most Canadians have probably never heard of Ezra Levant. But if extreme conservative views are at play, he is almost certainly involved.

His rants provided the impetus for Ottawa’s decision to attack environmentalists as un-Canadian radicals.

He once publicly accused George Soros, the Jewish-Hungarian-American financier, of collaborating with the Nazis (under threat of lawsuit, Levant later recanted).

More recently, Levant’s no-holds-barred attacks on Omar Khadr have bolstered Toews’ reluctance to honour a 2010 plea deal aimed at bringing the Canadian prisoner back from Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr, of course, is the Toronto-born man who at the age of 15 was captured by U.S. forces following an Afghan firefight. He has been incarcerated at Guantanamo for almost 10 years.

In 2010, he entered into a plea bargain where he admitted killing a U.S. soldier during that firefight. In return, the Americans sentenced him to eight more years in jail. Under the deal agreed to by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government at the time, seven of those were to be served in Canada.

It’s the return to Canada that Toews has been stalling. The minister now argues that before making a decision he must see pre-sentencing reports and videos, including those by U.S. forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner.

Welner testified to the military commission sentencing Khadr that the Canadian is a threat to society.

Which brings us back to Ezra Levant. He argues that Khadr, now 25, has duped his lawyers, virtually all of the media, most of his jailers and those experts (including a senior U.S. military psychiatrist) who say he poses no threat to anyone.

To support his point, Levant has posted online Welner’s report on Khadr as well as a transcript of the psychiatrist’s testimony.

Both make fascinating reading.

Welner’s analysis of Khadr is based on three broad factors. First, the young man remains an observant Muslim. Some might say this means he’s just an observant Muslim. Welner concludes it means he hasn’t been sufficiently westernized.

Second, Khadr hopes to see his mother and siblings again. Again, some might interpret this as normal. To Welner, it means he remains committed to jihadist views.

Third, Khadr is irked about being locked up at Gitmo. I’d be ticked too. But Welner says this shows he is unrepentant.

On it goes. . . . .

During the hearing, Welner testified that his approach was heavily influenced by the work of Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels.

Only under cross-examination was it revealed that Sennels has strange views of his own, including beliefs that Turks are inbred and that Muslims should be forced out of Europe.

This is the gist of the so-called secret evidence against Khadr. Surely even a Harper cabinet minister can’t take such nonsense seriously.

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