2011-05-06 Abdullah Khadr wins extradition appeal

ImageIn December 2005, Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, Abdurahman and Abdul Karim Khadr and younger brother of Zaynab, returned to his home in Toronto, Canada after fourteen months of being held in a Pakistan prison without charges. One week later he was arrested in Canada and held without bail, pending extradition to the US. The US had earlier obtained information from the Taliban which suggested to them Abdullah may have been the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian soldier in Kabul in January 2004. In an interview with CBC News on Feb. 25, 2004, Abdullah Khadr said, "If I was the suicide bomber, I wouldn't be doing this interview with you right now."

This time he was indicted in the US on charges of supplying weapons to Al Qaeda in Pakistan. In August 2006, Khadr's lawyer Dennis Edney filed an application to stay the extradition proceedings, arguing that the US government's evidence against Khadr was inadmissible because it relied on information gathered under torture in Pakistan. Khadr was held in a detention centre for the next five years until his release last August when the stay was granted and the presiding judge called his treatment "both shocking and unjustifiable."

The Attorney General of Canada brought the case to the Court of Appeal in April, arguing that the lower court judge did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr's release with the seriousness of the charges. Today, Ontario's Court of Appeal (the highest court in Ontario) agreed unanimously with the lower court's decision and answered the appeal with a 33 page decision. The decision stated that to allow the extradition would amount to the Canadian courts being complacent with the torture.

"We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values, for if we do not, in the longer term, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law will have succeeded. They will have demonstrated that our faith in our legal order is unable to withstand their threats. ... It surely can come as no surprise that in a country like Pakistan with a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, it is illegal to accept a bounty or bribe from a foreign government, to abduct a foreign national from the street, to beat that individual until he agrees to co-operate, to deny him consular access, to hold him in a secret detention centre for eight months while his utility as an intelligence source is exhausted, and then to continue to hold him in secret detention for six more months at the request of a foreign power," said the decision. They also pointed out that refusing the extradition does not prevent the Attorney General from bringing the case before Canadian courts.

Khadr's father, a Canadian named Ahmed Said Khadr who ran orphanages and other charities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and his family has been under constant threat from the US government. His brother Omar was tortured by the US military and kept in prison as a possible source of intelligence since he was 15 years old. He remains in Guantanamo today, now 24 years old.

Abdullah was abducted by Pakistani intelligence, who were paid a $500,000 bounty by the US government for him. (The Globe and Mail had to take the Canadian government to court in 2008 to be able to publish information about the bounty. The Canadian government held that publication would "threaten national security.") He was beaten and denied access to Canadian consular services, and held for fourteen months without charges while being interrogated by Pakistani, Canadian and US authorities. US authorities requested that Canadian intelligence not push for consular access. Pakistani authorities told Canadian authorities in June 2005 that Khadr would be released without charges, but US intelligence persuaded Pakistan to continue to hold him until December while the FBI interrogated him and arranged for his extradition to the US from Canada.

Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, said his newly married client is looking forward to getting on with his life, and the decision shows the US, "When they come to the court, they are supposed to come with clean hands, meaning that the evidence they are relying on to extradite that person is legal, it's not evidence that has been relied on through torture and abuse."

The federal government has 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In an earlier interview with Dennis Edney, he told WL Central that he was very tired after eight years of fighting the Canadian government, but he had no choice but to continue. The US State cable #09OTTAWA629 discussing the case of Abdullah's brother Omar shows that he was fighting more than the Canadian government:

"In a discussion with CDA on the eve of the decision, a senior official of the Prime Minister's Office predicted that the government would appeal to the Supreme Court if it lost at the appellate level. According to an official of the Privy Council Office on August 14, the government was still trying to "digest" the decision, but he took note our informal request for the government to consult privately with us before making public any possible request for repatriation. [bolding added] .... Comment: The vigorous dissent opinion should give the government some hope that an appeal to the Supreme Court could be successful, and could -- not incidentally -- also at least delay action until the next steps become clearer in the legal procedures against Mr. Khadr by the U.S. military authorities. Mr. Khadr's family remains deeply unpopular in Canada, although there is some sympathy for him since he was only 15 years old at the time of his capture. There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.

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