February 15, 2009

Harper: Talk about Khadr & the Cuban 5 with Obama

Montreal, February 11, 2009.

L.A. Lavell

Office of the Prime Minister / Cabinet du Premier ministre
Executive Correspondence Officer
Agent de correspondance de la haute direction

Dear Mr. L.A. Lavell

Thank you for your response below to my request that Mr. Harper raise the issue of the Cuban Five during the upcoming visit of President Obama to Ottawa.

Today all three opposition parties in the Canadian Parliament have called on Prime Minister Harper to request of President Obama during his February 19th visit to Ottawa the repatriation of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr from Guantanamo . It is increasingly evident that broad sections of the Canadian people and elected deputies are interested in important political issues being raised by the Prime Minister during the February 19th visit.

The following deputies in today’s news conference in Ottawa , speaking on behalf of their respective parties together forming the majority in the Canadian Parliament, declared that Khadr should be considered a child soldier because he was recruited at 13 and captured at 15: Liberal Party’s Bob Rae, Bloc Québécois party’s Paul Crête and New Democratic Party’s Paul Dewar.

The U.S. and Canadian governments are signatories to a United Nations protocol stating that fighters under age18 are to be considered child soldiers and must be released and helped to reintegrate into society.

Khadr was captured following a battle in Afghanistan in 2002. He has been held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer during that battle. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has so far refused to get involved and has rejected suggestions that Khadr should be considered a child soldier.

However, there have been many reports in Canada and Quebec , including from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the official state television network. These well-documented reports indicate that the chances are very high that Mr. Khadr had been framed and viciously tortured in Guantanamo in order to try and force a confession out of him to satisfy the needs of the US military and intelligence forces.

A group of interested Canadian citizens, which included Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney, Islamic Society Toronto region president Zafar Bangash and Canadian Arab Federation head Mohamed Boudjenane, urged PM Harper to meet with them before Obama's visit so he can pass along a formal request.

"Call us, meet with us. Your obligation, Mr. Harper, is to bring Omar home," said lawyer Dennis Edney.

"Omar has no objection to a trial," Dennis Edney, said in an interview. "We're not running, we're not hiding."

Firstly, allow me to add my voice to all those who are demanding that this Canadian citizen be immediately repatriated.

The case of the Cuban Five is of course completely different. One thing stands out in common, however, is that the Cuban Five never had a fair trial. It was held in Miami despite the normal and legal objections by their lawyers that this south Florida city is not an appropriate venue for a fair trial given the existence of the wealthy, influential, violent “anti-Castro government” colony there. The Cuban Five have been held in unbearable conditions for more than ten years now, including more than 17 months in the hole (solitary confinement) as soon as they were arrested in Miami , and on many occasions since then. Two of the Cuban prisoners have not been allowed to see their wives at all for more than 10 years, while the other three face constant obstacles placed in the path of their families’ visitation rights according to all international and American laws protecting family visits. This is called double punishment and is a kind of mental and
moral torture. Like the case of Omar Khadr, the Cuban Five have nothing to hide, and as a result any fair trial will release them. On January 30th, 2009 the legal team of the Cuban Five filed a writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court, asking the Court to examine the case, one of the main arguments being the violation of the right to an impartial trial in an appropriate venue. This case of the Cubans is highly political and is hopefully to be heard in the US Supreme Court.

Taking into account the concerns shown by many people and mass organizations in Canada and Quebec, including the fact that fifty-six members of the Canadian parliament have demanded the release of the Cuban Five and respect for family visitation rights until their freedom is achieved, I am asking you once again to relay my message to PM Harper and the appropriate ministers: this violation of human rights in the USA should be sharply criticized on February 19th. The Cuban Five should be given a fair trial. The US Supreme Court must hear this case as petitioned by their lawyers and/or be released immediately seeing that they have already spent more than ten years in US penitentiaries, far from their country and their families. Canada cannot stand idly by while the US practices a double standard: known and self-avowed terrorists such as Posada Carriles are free in the US , but those who dared to oppose terrorism against Cuba with the potential collaboration
of the US authorities, are in jail!

Even though I am writing this letter on my own personal behalf, just to let you know that I am a member of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 as well as the Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5 of the Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba.

Arnold August, Writer\Lecturer, Montreal

cc: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, Fax: (613) 996-9709
Minister of State Affairs ( Americas ), Peter Kent, Fax: (613) 996-9709

Subject: Office of the Prime Minister / Cabinet du Premier ministre
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2009 12:27:38 -0500
From: pm@pm.gc.ca
To: arnoldaugust@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. August:

On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to thank you for your recent e-mail.

Please be assured that your comments have been noted and that they will receive due consideration from the Minister, who has already received a copy of your correspondence.

L.A. Lavell
Executive Correspondence Officer
Agent de correspondance
de la haute direction

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