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Canadian NRI fights against Gitmo detainee’s return

world Updated: Jul 20, 2012 00:49 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

A new group in Canada, started by an Indo-Canadian, has launched a national campaign to prevent the repatriation of Omar Khadr, who is currently imprisoned in the Guantanamo military prison (also known as Gitmo) and has pled guilty to several charges including that of killing an American Army medic in Afghanistan in July 2002.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen, who spent years in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a major Guantanamo figure as the last remaining Western prisoner there, and among the youngest.

While supporters of Khadr’s return to Canada have argued that as a 15-year-old when he committed his crimes, he was a “child soldier” indoctrinated by his radical father, and that his human rights have been violated, that hasn’t convinced Shobhna Kapoor, who formed the Canadian Patriotic Society this spring to prevent his return.

Part of her reasoning is that Khadr’s family still lives in the Toronto area of Scarborough, her locality. Bhopal-born Kapoor pointed out, “If he does return to Canada, he would be in my neighbourhood. I believe he represents a huge public safety risk.”

Her campaign featured four simultaneous events in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal and Abbotsford, a suburb of Vancouver, on Wednesday evening. Khadr faced an eight-year prison sentence but was to be returned to Canada after the first year in Guantanamo, to serve the remaining seven years in a Canadian prison. He was eligible to return in October but the Canadian government has yet to take him back, a stand that has irked rights groups.

Kapoor says the group plans to formally present two written petitions to the Canadian Parliament. The first is against his repatriation, and the latter stipulates that if he does return, a real possibility, he should be tried for treason.

Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, said, “The guy is a convicted murderer. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be returned over here. But I’d have a serious problem if we invited someone who would then be the Joan of Arc of international jihadists and celebrated as such.”

Khadr’s lawyers have petitioned a Canadian court to speed up the process of his much-delayed repatriation. But the Canadian government has not relented as yet. Recently, Canada’s public safety minister Vic Toews said, “I’m not going to make in a hurry any decisions that may jeopardise public safety.”