Ottawa, Tuesday July 4, 2017
Omar Khadr’s long hard struggle for justice is about to end. The Canadian government will offer an official apology and $10.5 million in compensation for what he suffered for 10 years at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay at the hands of his American captors. “The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month,” according to a report by the Associated Press today.
Khadr was born in Canada whose father took him and the family to Afghanistan when was still young. His father, Ahmed Saied Khadr was involved in charitable work in Afghanistan during the Afghan struggle against the Soviets. At that time, the Afghan war was considered the good war until the Soviets left and the Taliban came to power in 1996. Then the former mujahideen (freedom fighters of Ronald’s Reagan’s description) were turned into terrorists.
Omar was badly wounded during an American assault on a house in Ayubkhel village in eastern Afghanistan in July 2002. Omar, 15 at the time, was shot twice in the back with bullets piercing his frail body narrowly missing his heart. He miraculously survived although he was blinded in one eye.
During the firefight, an American Army sergeant, Christopher Speer was killed when a grenade was thrown. Since Omar was the only survivor of that firefight, he was accused of throwing the grenade.
In his horribly wounded state, Omar was moved to Bagram airbase, the torture chamber set up by the Americans to hold prisoners. Acting as outlaws, the Americans started to torture Omar the moment he regained conscience. He suffered brutal torture for three months before he was shipped to Guantanamo Bay in a cargo plane with his hands and feet shackled to the floor throughout the 15-hour flight.
Guantanamo Bay turned out to be even worse. He was immediately branded the terrorist and every American guard, notorious for their sadistic conduct, started to exact his personal revenge. Omar’s pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears.
Even his own government, Canada abandoned him. Intelligence agents sent to Guantanamo Bay in April 2003, far from helping him, interrogated him, leveled accusations at him and abused him violating his basic rights as a Canadian citizen. Omar was a child and should have been treated as a child soldier captured in a war zone. The Americans, however, have never cared for any laws. Even the Canadian government violated his charter rights.
It was only when a dedicated and courageous Canadian lawyer Denis Edney took up his case that Omar’s case became better known. Edney worked tirelessly sacrificing his own law practice to rectify what he saw as a gross injustice to a child.
Edney’s efforts paid off when he was able to convince Omar to enter a plea bargain by pleading guilty to the murder charge in exchange for an eight-year sentence of which he would serve only one year in Guantanamo Bay and the rest in Canada.
Omar did not want to plead guilty to something he had not done but Edney convinced him that if he did, the chances of his getting out of Gitmo were better. The alternative was to spend the rest of his life in that hellhole illegally occupied by the Americans.
In 2010, Omar pleaded “guilty” before a kangaroo tribunal that has been universally denounced by legal experts as a sham. He was supposed to have been sent to Canada in 2011 but the Canadian government at the time led by the racist and bigot, Stephen Harper, refused to seek his extradition. His regime dragged its feet but Omar finally made it to Canada in 2012.
For the next three years, he spent time in various prisons until Edney was able to secure bail for him. To his credit, Edney and his wife Patricia took Omar into their house as their own child to enforce the bail conditions.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials had obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances” in April 2003. His American captors had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation, held in extremely stressful position, set dogs upon him and threatened him with being sent to Egypt to be sexually abused by sadistic Egyptian guards. In complete violation of his rights, Canadian intelligence officials handed information extracted from Omar over to his American captors.
His lawyers filed a $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing the government had violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the US in abusing Omar.
The government finally settled for $10.5 million compensation and agreed to offer an official apology.
Omar’s ordeal would be truly over when Harper is forced to apologise to him in public. Elements of the Islamophobic media that branded his parents and siblings “al Qaeda family” should similarly apologise. Added to this list must be the bootlicking so-called Muslims like Tarek Fatah and Raheel Raza and their ilk that miss no opportunity to denigrate Muslims. They should be hauled in the public square, preferably in handcuffs and made to apologise to Omar Khadr and his entire family for the wrong done to them.