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Page last updated at 04:14 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 05:14 UK

Canada given insight into Guantanamo

By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Video purportedly showing Omar Khadr being questioned in 2003
Omar Khadr's lawyers hope the video tape will help them gain public support
Grainy video images of the 2003 interrogation of tearful Canadian detainee Omar Khadr at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay have given the Canadian public a rare glimpse of a young man who has become a polarising figure in his home country.

The video tape, made public by order of a Canadian court, showed Mr Khadr during four days of questioning by Canadian intelligence agents.

Six months earlier, when he was only 15 years old, he had been captured in a bombed-out compound in Afghanistan, badly injured and near death.

Mr Khadr was charged with murdering a US soldier, allegedly throwing a grenade during a violent exchange with American commandos. His trial before a US military tribunal is expected in October.

It's time for this travesty to stop and for Omar Khadr to come home to Canada to face justice under Canadian law
Nathan Whitley
Lawyer for Omar Khadr

Mr Khadr's Canadian lawyers pointed to footage from Mr Khadr's second day of questioning which showed him frightened and sobbing, pleading with the Canadian security agents.


The lawyers said they hoped to gain public support to renew pressure on the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand the return of the young Canadian, now 21.

"It is beyond comprehension that Prime Minister Harper continues to tolerate the treatment of a Canadian citizen in this manner," said Nathan Whitley, one of Mr Khadr's lawyers, who accuses the US military authorities of torturing a confession from the wounded teenager.

"It's time for this travesty to stop and for Omar Khadr to come home to Canada to face justice under Canadian law."

'Judicial process'

But Mr Harper has always maintained he will not seek Mr Khadr's return to Canada, and that position appeared to be unchanged after the release of the video.

File pic of Omar Khadr before he was detained at the age of 15

Anne Howland, a spokeswoman for the Canadian foreign ministry, repeated a statement made by the prime minister last week, that the government believes Mr Khadr is in a legal process that must continue.

Mr Harper has said in the past that he has received assurances that Mr Khadr is being treated humanely, and maintained that the charges he faces are very serious. The government regards Mr Khadr's trial as a judicial process, not a political one.

Canada is the only western country that has not demanded the return of its detainees from the controversial detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

France and Britain are among the countries that have succeeded in having their nationals released following diplomatic pressure on US authorities.

The fact that Mr Khadr was only 15 at the time of his arrest has led some here to refer to him as a "child soldier", including Bob Rae, the foreign affairs critic for the opposition Liberal party.

"He's clearly not going to get a real trial. He's going to get a military tribunal," said Mr Rae. "I think that Omar Khadr has [to be] brought home and that whatever justice is to be faced, he should face it here."

Strong views

While that view is more or less shared by all three of Canada's three federal opposition parties, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International, public opinion is sharply divided with strong views on either side of the debate. Media websites have been inundated with responses.

"I see Khadr crying and whining about his physical state," says one of 600 e-mails received by Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC. "Let's not forget he has been accused of killing an American soldier. So truthfully, I don't feel sorry for him."

Says another: "Whatever his crime... he was a child when he was sent to Afghanistan to fight and at that young age could not have possibly understood the implications of what he was doing. He has suffered enough."

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The video was filmed secretly through an air duct

Some members of the Khadr family have gained a reputation in Canadian media interviews as al-Qaeda sympathisers.

The late family patriarch, Ahmed Said Khadr, was an associate of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and the family spent time living in some of his compounds. Several family members now reside in Toronto.

They did not grant any broadcast interviews but did speak to the Canadian Press news agency.

Omar Khadr's sister, Zaynab Khadr, said that she was not optimistic his situation would improve in the near future.

She noted that another brother, Abdullah Khadr, currently in prison in Canada awaiting extradition to the US on charges of gun-running and conspiracy to murder Americans abroad, was interrogated by Canadian agents despite allegedly having been abused during his detention in Pakistan.

"He was tortured for their benefit and he still continues to be in jail and it hasn't changed much, so I can't expect it to be any different in Guantanamo," she said.

The video's release follows intelligence reports made public last week showing that Omar Khadr was subjected to weeks of sleep deprivation by US military officials before being interviewed by Canadian officials, and that the Canadians were aware of the sleep deprivation.





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