Activists will stage rallies across Canada this weekend to urge Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to press for the repatriation of a young Canadian detainee at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, Mohamed Boudjenane, said on Friday that weekend rallies were planned for Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. On Wednesday, one will be held in Vancouver in support of bringing Toronto-born terror suspect Omar Khadr back to Canada.
“Omar became a victim, on one hand, because he was manipulated by his family at a young age. [But] he’s also the victim of this government, which is now supporting this kangaroo legal system happening in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.
The son of an alleged al-Qaeda financier who was raised in Afghanistan, Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US Special Forces soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.
Another solider was blinded in one eye. Khadr was 15 at the time.
His case drew international attention last week after Khadr’s defense team released video footage of Khadr being interrogated by Canadian officials at the US prison in 2003, when he was 16.
His lawyers released the tapes in hopes of generating sympathy for the young prisoner and to try to persuade the Canadian government to seek custody before he is prosecuted for war crimes at a US special tribunal in Guantanamo later this year.
Harper has said that he will not seek Khadr’s release despite international condemnation of the military commissions.
The activists contend that Khadr, who has been imprisoned for six years without charges, is not being granted a fair legal process.
“There is not a snowball’s chance in heck that he going to be able to get himself a fair trial,” said Sid Lacombe of the Canadian Peace Alliance.
Khadr remains the youngest and lone Western detainee still at Guantanamo, where documentation indicates he was abused.
Critics argue that Khadr’s age when he was caught means he should be treated like a child soldier, not a war criminal.
“Other action” may be needed if the rallies and public pressure fail to persuade Harper to act, Boudjenane said.
“Maybe Canada can find itself in front of the United Nations Human Rights Commission defending itself and the fact Canada is not respecting its own convention and treaties when it comes to the protection of child soldiers,” he said.